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FORT MILL --
The competition for customers in the upscale grocery market heats up Wednesday as Publix opens stores in Fort Mill and Indian Land, going head-to-head with Harris Teeter.
Ribbon-cutting ceremonies are scheduled at the two Publix locations at 6:45 a.m. and doors open a 7. Normal store hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
The store held a preview Tuesday at the locations, inviting area politicians, members of the chamber of commerces and other business leader to view the new stores.
The winner in the competition, analysts say, is the consumer who have now have more choices, not only in price, but in terms of quality and variety. Customer service could be a key factor in which stores consumers choose.
This is good for the market and the consumers are the winners, said Roger Beahm, executive director, Center for Retail Innovation at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
Marianne Bickle, director of the Center for Retailing at the University of South Carolina, said the Publix openings are good news for retailers, consumers, even the housing market.
She said Publix is a good as any retailer to have as a neighbor. They are a big drawing power and bring a lot of traffic, she said, They are good for any nearby strip mall.
And Publix customers have high brand loyalty and are willing to spend money, she said.
The competition may drive more consumers to the high-end market because the value Harris Teeter and Publix offers, he said.
With Publix coming to the market Harris Teeter has taken several steps to improve its position, acquiring Lowes Food Stores and opening its two 201Central stores which are small grocery stores but with a vast selection of wines and craft beers and specialty goods.
Some shoppers will try to the Publix stores because they are new, Beahm said. The key, for both Publix and Harris Teeter, is do they give shoppers a reason to come back, Beahm said.
The two South Carolina stores are new construction. Each store has about 50,000 square feet of space and includes the amenities such as a bakery, butcher shop, flower shop and an extensive wine and beer selection.
The grocery items include a variety of healthy choices, said Ken Terry, manager of the Fort Mill store.
We want to help you have a healthy lifestyle, he said.
At Tuesdays pre-opening parties there was plenty of food to sample each store has a cafe for in-store dining as well as tours and plenty of new Publix employees to answer questions.
Each store employs about 125 employees. Two job fairs were held in the region to review applications and Terry said he was impressed with the job pool.
We found the talent, he said. You have to have the talent, the personality, to give the customer service Publix shoppers have come to expect, he said.
Terry, a 19-year veteran of Publix, said he will know when his store is success, when we see repeat business.