Raleigh downtowners long for supermarket in heart of city
Posted March 3, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — Earlier this month, Wegmans said it was opening a location in Cary. Around the same time, Amazon started a one-hour delivery service, which included groceries.
When they look at all the new supermarket options now available in the Triangle area, people in downtown Raleigh are wondering when they’ll get a neighborhood grocery store.
The closest supermarket—Harris Teeter at Cameron Village—is only a few miles away, but downtowners have long talked about the prospect of a grocery store closer to the heart of the city.
Andy Ellen, president of the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association, said it’s hard for grocers to find enough land downtown to handle delivery trucks and parking. Plus, with the thin profit margins of the grocery business, the products have to move.
“A handbasket for every consumer doesn't necessarily turn the shelves enough to make it profitable,” Ellen said.
Amazon’s same-day delivery service offers groceries delivered in as little as an hour, but shoppers still like the convenience of hands-on grocery shopping, according to Bill King, with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.
“They want to be able to see the fruit and vegetables and touch it and feel it,” he said. “I’m not sure people want to trust that to someone else, necessarily.”
King said Prime Now – Amazon’s new service – hasn’t curbed grocers’ appetites to move to downtown Raleigh.
“We’ve got several grocers very interested; they see the demand, the growth,” King said. “Right now, it's finding the right location.”
King said an announcement could come later this year, but it may not be a traditional supermarket format.
Some grocers interested in downtown Raleigh specialize in fresh food and have stores that feel like a farmers' market, King said.