COLUMBIA — Piggly Wiggly is shaking up the S.C. grocery market, saying Thursday it would sell 29 of its stores to Bi-Lo and Harris Teeter.
In the Midlands, Bi-Lo will expand its brand by acquiring three Piggly Wiggly stores. Harris Teeter, soon to become part of Kroger, will not make a return appearance to the Columbia area, though.
In the Midlands, Bi-Lo will take over Piggly Wiggly locations at:
• 4711-1 Forest Drive, Forest Acres – a location that, years ago, was a Harris Teeter
760 Highway 378, Lexington
• 4360 Augusta Road, Lexington
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Piggly Wiggly will retain seven stores in Richland, Lexington and Kershaw counties.
“The entire grocery industry has seen a real change in consumer behavior as people have watched their budgets more closely than ever,” said Christopher Ibsen, spokesman for Charleston-based Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co.
As the country has struggled to recover from the worst recession in a lifetime, many consumers have cut back on spending. A customer who bought a pound of meat from the deli six years ago now might buy pre-packaged deli meat or bologna, Ibsen said.
“We’re starting to see the very earliest stages of that trend starting to shift back,” Ibsen said. That, he added, has grocery companies scrambling to position themselves for the future.
Kroger is in the process of buying Harris Teeter. Lone Star Funds, which owns Bi-Lo, bought Winn-Dixie last year and is snapping up three smaller chains this year.
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in merger-and-acquisitions activity within the grocery sector … particularly over the past six months,” Ibsen said. “Folks see an opportunity to grow.”
For Piggly Wiggly, selling the stores was the best opportunity for the company to protect its employee stock ownership plan, Ibsen said.
Preserving shareholder value is “our No. 1 responsibility,” he said.
Piggly Wiggly said in July it would close its Garners Ferry Road location in Lower Richland.
After the deal announced Thursday is completed, Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co., a 76-year-old franchise, will operate 30 stores. It also will continue to provide support and supply groceries to an additional 30 franchised stores, Ibsen said.
Bi-Lo will buy a total of 22 Piggly Wiggly stores with 1,200 employees throughout South Carolina and coastal Georgia. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year. All of the stores will be re-branded as Bi-Los.
Harris Teeter will buy six current and one future Piggly Wiggly – all in the Lowcountry. That transaction is expected to be completed next month.