GREENVILLE, S.C. — Bi-Lo is betting $40 million that its Super Bi-Lo concept will freshen its Chattanooga image and retain its dominant 32-store presence in the area as competition tightens with Publix’s entry into the market.
Four Chattanooga shoppers were given a VIP tour Thursday of a Super Bi-Lo in Greenville, S.C., minutes from the grocer’s Mauldin headquarters.
“I’m anxious to shop in Super Bi-Los,” said Linda Sartain. “The Chattanooga stores were getting somewhat dated. This (format) is more the way grocery stores are moving.”
The chain will open the area’s first Super Bi-Lo at 8 a.m. Feb. 6 on Ooltewah-Ringgold Road, said Joyce Smart, director of corporate communications. The $9 million-plus store, at 48,000 square feet, will be smaller than the 57,000-square-foot Super Bi-Lo that Chattanooga shoppers previewed, she said.
A store on East Brainerd Road is being remodeled to the Super concept and will reopen in March, while a Super Bi-Lo under construction on Hixson Pike will open in April, said regional Vice President Dwayne Goodwin.
The Ooltewah Bi-Lo has been partially converted, Mr. Goodwin said, and will be completed by late March or early April. The Red Bank store is being converted to the format as well, officials said.
Bi-Lo is spending about $40 million to build and upgrade the local stores.
Staff Photo by Jason M. Reynolds -- Eddie Walling adjusts tomatoes on display at a Super Bi-Lo in Greenville, S.C., on Thursday. The grocer will open its first Super Bi-Lo in Chattanooga on Feb. 6.
Bi-Lo has a 35 percent market share in Chattanooga, Mr. Goodwin said previously, making it the largest grocer in the Scenic City. Publix in December opened its first local store in a former Winn-Dixie in East Brainerd. The Florida chain has stores under construction in Hixson and Ooltewah.
Tonya Turman and Megan Bray, both of Chattanooga, said they have shopped at the new Publix. Mrs. Turman said she was not overly impressed with the East Brainerd Publix, but attributed her experience to the store having been remodeled.
Bi-Lo operates about 35 stores in Greenville in competition with Publix, Wal-Mart and Bloom, an upscale division of Food Lion, said Todd Rogers, Bi-Lo’s public affairs manager. The Greenville store is one of 13 Super Bi-Los in the Southeast, and serves as a “laboratory” to test concepts. Not all concepts will make it to Chattanooga, Mrs. Smart said.
Mrs. Sartain said her favorite features at the Super Bi-Lo were the produce displays and wide aisles. Her friend, Debra Stallings, said she believes the Super Bi-Lo has more variety than older Bi-Los. The women said both Publix and Super Bi-Lo have good meat departments.
“This concept is about listening to customers, tweaking and moving forward,” Mr. Goodwin said. “We’ve tried to listen to our customers and we feel we’ve done that with the Super Bi-Lo concept.”
In response to feedback, officials said, Super Bi-Lo worker uniforms have been changed to a “crisp green” appearance. Employees are trained to walk shoppers to the location of items they are hunting.
Computer maps show customers where particular goods are, and kiosks print recipes and show customers how much money they have saved with their Bonus cards.
Frozen and refrigerated foods will be placed in blue bags at checkout to distinguish them from other items. Certified Angus beef and sushi are heavily featured, officials said.
ABOUT SUPER BI-LO
Super Bi-Lo features:
* More organic and natural foods; expanded deli and bakery selections
* Extended service hours in “fresh” departments like floral and the bakery
* Self-serve chicken wing bars
* National FTD service ordered from the floral department
* Extensive employee training, including certification in topics such as specialty cheeses, baking and meal planning
* Improved restroom appearance and uncluttered sales floors