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Food Lion closing to leave void at Crossroads Plaza near Tega Cay

The planned closing of the Food Lion in Crossroads Plaza will leave that shopping center near Tega Cay without its anchor.

The store, at the intersection of S.C. 160 and Gold Hill Road in Fort Mill Township, is one of 113 "under performing" Food Lion grocery stores scheduled to close within 30 days, according to a statement the company released Thursday.

Marion Davenport, owner of Chirp n' Chatter, another Crossroads Plaza store, was surprised by the news. Davenport has operated Chirp n' Chatter in the Crossroads Plaza for 11 years.

"Of course, I'm concerned because it will change the traffic in the shopping center. And I'm sorry to hear that, because they have been good neighbors," she said.

Chirp n' Chatter is a co-anchor of the shopping center, she said, with the second largest square footage after Food Lion. She doesn't expect Food Lion's departure from the shopping center to trigger a move on her part.

"I really like it where I am and that isn't just based on Food Lion. It's a whole lot less expensive than this space would be somewhere else," Davenport said.

Delhaize America CEO Ron Hodge, in a statement that Thursday's announcement "will continue to solidify our U.S. operations and enable our company to focus on our successful brand strategy repositioning at Food Lion and the expansion of Bottom Dollar Food in new markets.

"While these were difficult decisions given the impact on our associates, customers and communities, we believe these actions will enable us to better serve our customers in our markets with high density, while positioning the company for future growth," Hodge said.

Food Lion is owned by Delhaize, the Belgian supermarket transnational that also owns Bottom Dollar, Bloom and other brands. In all, the Food Lion closures represent about 10 percent of the Salisbury, N.C.-based chain's total store count.

The move comes just months after the company ditched its Bloom brand and converted existing Bloom stores, including the one in Fort Mill Township on Regent Parkway, to Food Lion stores.

The Regent Park store is not one of the 113 stores that are scheduled to close.

Bloom was considered more high end than Food Lion and boasted a more spread-out format that offered a larger selection of gourmet and organic items, among other features.

According to Delhaize, approximately 4,900 employees will be affected by the store closings nationwide. The Crossroads Plaza Food Lion, near Tega Cay, is one of 14 Food Lions in South Carolina that will close.

Industry experts said it's difficult for Food Lions to compete because they are somewhere between two formats increasing numbers of customers prefer - high end and discount.

Phil Lempert, editor of supermarketguru.com, said the recent opening of an Aldi just down the road from Food Lion on S.C. 160 West and the construction of a Publix less than two miles away off Gold Hill Road may have influenced Delhaize's decision to include the Fort Mill Township unit in the mass closings.

"Absolutely," Lempert said.

Lempert described a trend he said is driving change in the grocery industry.

"If you take a look at what's going on in supermarkets, you see growth in both ends. What you're seeing is more upscale like Publix with better prepared food and higher service and attributes like that and then on the other end of the spectrum, Aldi and Save-A-Lots and the smaller footprint stores with less items and less service and lower costs all doing well.

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