GMR On The Money: Grocery store wars in the Richmond area

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Drive past any corner in the Richmond area and you’ll see several supermarkets nearby.

Bob Kelly, a former executive with Ukrop’s, VCU professor and owner of Pure Culture Consulting, says Richmond is very attractive to grocery chains because of its universities and big businesses like Altria and Capital One.

Virginia is also a business friendly state.

“Right to work state. Organizations come in without fear of unionization,” Kelly points out.

Now, the grocery market is about to get a little more crowded with Aldi adding locations and Lydl and Publix announcing they’re both about to try and sink their teeth into the market, too.

You’d think all this competition would scare stores off, but Kelly says in a lot of ways, the market is still reorganizing itself in the wake of longtime local market leader Ukrop’s selling out to Martin’s.

Five years later, Martin’s looks to be throwing in the towel with reports in Food World Magazine saying that all of its Richmond stores are up for sale as it merges with Food Lion.

“Martin’s came in, the brand wasn’t exactly Ukrop’s. People still had a great affinity for Ukrop’s, so they didn’t appreciate Martin’s. People are looking forward to Wegmans, it’s a closer match.”

Opening on Sunday, May 22, Wegman’s has long been compared to Ukrop’s and its hometown style.

“It’s going to be world war three,” Kelly predicts.

One estimate has Wegmans taking away up to 50 percent of sales from nearby stores when it opens. It’s why other stores are going through remodels, sending out coupons and offering gas discounts.

“They will bring you in to show you this, trying to keep you there. The reality is your going to go to Wegmans. Will they be able to keep you?” Kelly asks.

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