Raleigh, N.C. — Kroger announced on Wednesday that it will be closing all stores in the Raleigh-Durham area by Aug. 14.
The news comes one day after Lidl pulled out of a planned store in Cary.
“After a thorough evaluation of the market for a significant time period, we have decided to close out stores in the highly competitive Raleigh-Durham market,” said Jerry Clontz, president of the Mid-Atlantic Division of Kroger.
Clontz said that the grocery store market in the area is oversaturated and the company has not been able to grow their business in the way they desired.
“I thought that this was a growing area. When I look at the statistics for housing, it seems to be growing and I don’t understand why the services would be closing down at the same time,” said shopper David Johnson.
Shoppers on Wednesday afternoon were surprised by the news that the stores would be closing.
“I come to Kroger about once or twice a week and I’m really upset that it’s closing,” said shopper Jazmine Handley.
“I like to shop here, it’s just nice,” said shopper Angelica Bordeaux. “The environment is good, everybody’s nice, it’s affordable, convenient and everything.”
Store officials said the closings will cause about 1,500 employees to lose their jobs. More than half of those employees are employed part time, store officials said.
“We’ve been a part of the Raleigh-Durham market since 1989, and our associates have provided customers with top-notch service,” Clontz said. “Helping them through this transition is our No. 1 priority. We’re making every effort to assist our associates in finding employment.”
Kroger plans to sell all 14 stores, and the company is under contract with Food Lion, Crunch Fitness and Harris Teeter to take over some locations. In 2014, the Kroger chain acquired Harris Teeter but continued to operate them under the Harris Teeter name.
North Carolina State University Professor Mike Walden said the conversion of certain stores from Kroger to Harris Teeter may be about specific locations and competitors as well as a changing client base. He believes the biggest factor, however, is branding.
“People in North Carolina like Harris Teeter. Harris Teeter, I believe, was a hometown state supermarket. People know Harris Teeter, they like Harris Teeter and Harris Teeter has the reputation for being a little more upscale,” he said. “So, I think Kroger is taking this opportunity, while downsizing, to then also re-brand.”
Walden also pointed to big changes in the grocery industry in recent years including new stores like Publix, Aldi, Lidl and soon Wegmans, but also the changing way people buy groceries, especially through delivery services.
Harris Teeter has agreed to move into Kroger stores at the following locations:
- 202 W. NC Hwy 54, Durham
- 3457 Hillsborough Rd., Durham
- 5116 N. Roxboro Rd., Durham
- 1273 N.W. Maynard Rd., Cary
- 8345 Creedmoor Rd., Raleigh
- 940 US Hwy 64, Apex
- 1802 North Point Dr., Durham
- 1371 E. Broad St., Fuquay-Varina.
Harris Teeter said that pharmacies at five of the stores they have purchased will remain open throughout the transition.
“Kroger has a long tradition of operating in this area, as does Harris Teeter,” said Danna Robinson with Harris Teeter. “Our valued associates have proudly served these Raleigh-Durham communities for decades, so these store locations are especially attractive to us. We plan to invest in remodeling a number of these locations to better serve our shoppers in this growing and vibrant market.”
Robinson said Kroger employees who are interested in working for Harris Teeter are encouraged to apply online.
“I just feel bad for all the people that are losing jobs. I was just talking to one of the customer service ladies. I was like ‘what are you doing to do?’ She was like ‘Well, we’ve got to get new jobs now.’ Nobody knew anything,” said shopper Jazzlyn Bethea.
Employees at the Kroger on Timber Drive in Garner said managers have been calling group meetings with employees since the announcement was made Wednesday morning. Employees said they were told there would be job fairs through August to help find new opportunities. They were also offered the option of transferring to other Kroger stores, but that would mean relocating to Virginia.
Thomas Guastello, who owns the Kroger on Six Forks Road in Raleigh said he does not know who will be taking over his location at this point, but he is confident he will find something to fill the space.
“We don’t have an agreement. We have interest. At this point, it could be several tenants, or it might be one,” he said. “I think we’re going to do some exciting things there. We’re willing to come in, put more money in and make changes to make it even bigger and better.”
Guastello said he suspected the closing might be coming, but did not know for sure until the announcement was made Wednesday morning.
“We just heard about it this morning as a final thing. We did realize, with the market, there is a changing place and we had some inclinations that in fact that store could perhaps close,” he said. “We’re kind of sad to see them go. We really liked the location and got along well with them. They’re a very good company that runs their stores very well and are fair to deal with.”
Food Lion will move into the store at 7905 Falls of Neuse Road in Raleigh, and Crunch Fitness will move into the store at 6300 Creedmoor Road in Raleigh.