Apr 21, 2024 - Business

What's next for Wegmans in North Carolina

wegmans supermarket in chapel hill

Wegmans in Chapel Hill. Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios

Expect further expansion of Wegmans in North Carolina following the popular grocery chain's recent announcement it'll open its first Charlotte store in 2026.

Why it matters: Wegmans' growth adds fuel to North Carolina's already intense grocery wars. Over the last decade, the state — birthplace of Harris Teeter and Food Lion — has seen new competition from companies like Florida-based Publix, Arizona-based Sprouts and Germany-based Lidl.

  • Wegmans, based in New York, has a devout following, especially among transplants living in North Carolina.
  • There's a "Bring Wegmans to Charlotte" Facebook group with more than 7,000 members that proclaimed "WE DID IT!" in response to the grocer's Charlotte announcement.
  • Wegmans is already looking for its next North Carolina locations.

Flashback: Wegmans began planning its North Carolina debut almost a decade ago, Dan Aken, the company's vice president of real estate, told Axios. The grocer prioritized the Triangle (the Raleigh store opened in 2019) because of its proximity to Wegmans' existing distribution network.

Zoom out: In 2023, Wegmans opened a huge new distribution center outside Richmond — a long-planned project that enables continued southern expansion of the business.

  • "It not only frees up capacity from our other distribution center in Pennsylvania that helps us grow in the Northeast, [but] this new distribution center also helps us grow in the Southeast," Aken said.

Between the lines: Wegmans considers a long list of factors when determining where to open stores. The company looks at populations "with high food interest," a combination of both education and incomes, and population growth.

  • "We do really well in university towns," Aken said.

Yes, but: While it's common in markets like Raleigh and Charlotte to see competitors like Publix and Harris Teeter nearby, don't expect to find a Wegmans too close to other supermarkets, Aken said.

  • A Wegmans' trade area (the geographical reach of the customers it serves) is about eight to 10 miles, compared with two to three miles for a typical grocery store, per Aken.

The intrigue: Wegmans' Charlotte store will open in Ballantyne, which is not an uncommon first choice for a new-to-town grocer looking to plant its flag. That's what Florida-based Publix did in 2014 with its first North Carolina store.

  • Sprouts, a Phoenix grocer, opened its first Charlotte store off Providence Road West in Ballantyne in 2018.
  • Following their Ballantyne debuts, Publix and Sprouts opened stores in South End and Steele Creek, respectively.

What they're saying: "We're all doing the same thing — chasing growth," Aken said.

What's next: The Charlotte Wegmans is expected to open in 2026 following a roughly 18-month buildout and store prep.

  • Wegmans' next Triangle store will open in Holly Springs in 2027.
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