Business

And the winner of the Publix vs. Kroger showdown at Buckwalter Place is ... you

The cleared site at Buckwalter Place shopping center in Bluffton where a 113,000-square-food Kroger Marketplace is planned to neighbor an already existing Publix.
The cleared site at Buckwalter Place shopping center in Bluffton where a 113,000-square-food Kroger Marketplace is planned to neighbor an already existing Publix. Madison Hogan

In a land teeming with grocery stores, it’s hard to believe that we have even more coming our way in Bluffton.

A couple of readers have asked about the status of two developing stores in the area — Kroger at Buckwalter Place and The Fresh Market at the intersection of U.S. 278 and Burnt Church Road — and I have some answers.

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First, let’s tackle Kroger, since it’s supposed to be the mac-daddy Kroger of Beaufort county. The store planned for Buckwalter Place is a whooping 113,000-square-foot Marketplace, which is a regular Kroger that also includes home goods, decor, bed and bath items, a kitchen and small appliances section, a home office department, toys and even a “baby world.”

You know a place is huge when it has an entire world in it.

When I visited Buckwalter Place on Wednesday morning, I noticed the land has been cleared in that area, but not much else is going on. Developers promised to break ground earlier this year, and they’ve obviously delivered, but let’s be honest, the real date we want to know is when this place is going to open.

I called up Southeastern Development Associates on Wednesday and haven’t heard any word. I’ve noticed during my time as a retail reporter that once a project has or appears to extend past its original completion date, it’s harder to get answers, i.e. Pineland Station, Okatie Crossing.

Across from the cleared lot sits Publix in the same shopping center, and I got to thinking: Who in their right mind would ever build a grocery store right next to another grocery store?

Would Publix shutter after the opening of mac-daddy Kroger? Would consumers rip their hair out in the middle of the parking lot over the stress of deciding which grocery store to walk into? Was Dennis the Menace running this development?

It’s almost like watching an old Western showdown played out in slow motion — because hey, these things take time — as the grocers face each other head on.

I’m not an expert (yet). I’m just a consumer, like you. So I decided to call someone up who might have some answers.

Marianne Bickle, a retail professor from the University of South Carolina, said that two grocery stores right next to each other encourages competition, and that it’s actually a good thing.

“It won’t hurt Publix, and it won’t hurt Kroger. It will actually help the consumers,” she said.

Not the answer I was expecting.

She said the competition between the two retailers would make them think smarter and encourage people to shop more. If anything, she said retailers want stores similar to each other in the same vicinity, and these stores don’t want to be the only retailer in their category around.

Bickle also said people would competitively shop, meaning go to Publix for one thing and Kroger for another.

“When you’re talking about groceries, (consumers) will definitely cross the road for that,” she said.

There’s no telling whether direct competition like this will also throw some competitive prices the customer’s way, according to Bickle, but I think if you keep an eye out, we buyers might end up winning this shootout with some major sale prices.

However, don’t expect either Kroger or Publix to give away their products.

“Both are two big powerhouses; they are not going out of business,” Bickle said.

So, sure, it’s a new concept and weird to see — the Publix that sits across from Walmart in Hardeeville is the only other similar situation I’ve noticed in the area.

But think about it: When is the last time you questioned why a McDonald’s bordered a Burger King?

The answer is, you probably haven’t. Instead, you were thinking about a juicy Whopper or Mickey D’s french fries. Or better yet, how you could have both.

With similar retailers next to one another, we can have our cake and eat it, too.

Now, onto The Fresh Market.

Madison Hogan: 843-706-8137, @MadisonHogan

Help Madison Hogan do her job

Email Retail and Arts reporter at mhogan@islandpacket.com or call her at 843-706-8137 if you hear of a new business opening, an old one closing or if you’re just curious about what might be going in that building, who bought that land and why, or what that pile of dirt is going to be.

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