ROCK HILL — Publix is coming to Rock Hill, buying BI-LO stores on Cherry Road and Heckle Boulevard a move toward dominating the grocery business in York County.
The Rock Hill stores were two of seven Publix purchased Friday from BI-LO. Also included in the deal is the Lake Wylie store on S.C. 274. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
The deal is expected to close in October. No timetable has been set for Publix to close the BI-LO stores and convert them, Publix officials said.
Fridays transaction comes one day after BI-LO announced the purchase of 22 Piggly Wiggly locations in South Carolina and Georgia, including the store in Clover.
We have and will continue to fine-tune our company and network of stores so that we can reinvest in what matters most for our customers, said Randall Onstead, president and CEO of Bi-Lo Holdings.
Harris-Teeter also announced Thursday it was acquiring seven Piggly Wiggly stores in the Charleston area. Kroger is in the process of acquiring Harris-Teeter.
The deal gives Publix five stores in York County, compared to nine for Food Lion. Delhaize, Food Lions parent company, has recently been selling stores with BI-LO acquiring 165, most of them in Florida.
Harris-Teeter and Walmart both have four locations in York County.
BI-LO will continue to operate the Rock Hill store on East Main Street in Rock Hill, as well as two each in York and Lancaster and one each in Fort Mill and Chester.
The move, grocery analysts said, rapidly moves up Publixs timetable to challenge Harris-Teeter in the Charlotte regional market.
The consumer will be better off because of this and everyone else needs to pick up their game to stay in it, said analyst David Livingston of Wisconsin. Publix, which is among the industry leaders in sales per square foot, is now driving the regional market, he said.
Livingston said consumers should benefit because Publix has a better shopping experience than does BI-LO. Prices could rise slightly, he said, but those driven by price will likely go to Walmart. Walmart will keep them honest, he said.
Lou Pantusco, an economics professor at Winthrop University, said he doubted there would be much change in grocery prices. The market is so competitive, he said.
Publixs size gives it an advantage over BI-LO, he said. They can get deeper discounts from their suppliers, Pantusco said.
Maria Brous, spokeswoman for Publix, said the grocery chain has been aggressively looking at the Charlotte region for some time because of the population growth and sales potential.
Publix opened stores in Fort Mill and Indian Land about a year ago. The first Publix store in Charlotte is slated to open in the Ballantyne area in February.
The opening of the Fort Mill and Indian Land stores fit with Publixs market strategy.
We look for growth areas where is still building going on, said Brenda Reid, a Publix spokeswoman. The key is to get in when the growth is happening and people are developing shopping habits.
Brous said the Fort Mill and Indian Land stores continue to gain customers, a mix of those already familiar with Publix and those who dont know who we are.
Brous said Publix typically builds its own stores, a process that takes between nine and 10 months. The acquisition of the BI-LO stores will allow Publix to enter the Rock Hill and Lake Wylie markets sooner.
Of its 1,073 stores, only 80 were added by acquisition, Brous said.
Publix has been eying Rock Hill for at least two years, said Randy Graham, managing director for Sperry Van Ness Southern Commercial Real Estate of Rock Hill. He said Publix looked at locations near the two BI-LO stores.
Brous did not comment on Publixs local interest, but said the company is always evaluating opportunities.
Employees of the BI-LO stores included in the deal can apply for jobs with Publix, Brous said. Typically, Publix brings in a management team from within the company to run the new stores. Each Publix store employs between 125 and 150 people.
Ely Portillo of the Charlotte Observer contributed