SALISBURY, N.C. — After nearly seven years of experimentation with a more upscale supermarket banner in North and South Carolina, Delhaize America here last week said it would abandon the effort in those two states.
The company, which launched Bloom as part of its Food Lion division in 2004, said it would convert 15 of its Bloom locations in the Charlotte, N.C., and Greenville, S.C., markets to the Food Lion banner “as quickly as possible.” A location in Mauldin, S.C., will be closed, the company said.
“We appreciate the loyalty of our Bloom guests; however, we are confident our Food Lion banner will best meet the needs of our customers at these locations,” said Tammy DeBoer, vice president of Bloom, in a prepared statement.
Bloom will retain 49 locations — 42 in Virginia and seven in Maryland — where the banner has been performing better, a Delhaize spokesman said.
“While store sales [in the Carolinas] have certainly been below expectations, we believe the lagging economy, store location and consumer preferences have been contributing factors,” Benny Smith, the spokesman, told local media outlets. “Our stores in the southeast Virginia and Washington, D.C., areas are performing well.”
One observer, who asked not to be identified, suggested that Bloom might have run up against tough competition from The Fresh Market and Harris Teeter — the No. 1 chain in Charlotte — in the more upscale supermarket niche.
“Maybe they were just having trouble getting traffic,” the observer said.
Delhaize opened the first Bloom store near Charlotte in 2004, outfitting it with the latest in self-scanning and kiosk technologies and positioning it as a more sophisticated version of its Food Lion banner. It experimented with expanded convenience and prepared food offerings, using input from Delhaize's European operations, and also experimented with different layout configurations — grouping products by daypart use, for example — and with a grab-and-go section at the front of the store with a dedicated checkout. Some of the design elements that were tested at Bloom have since been incorporated into some Food Lion locations.
Food Lion expanded Bloom to the Greenville, S.C., market in 2006, and followed with the conversion of several stores in the Washington, D.C., market to Bloom.
As of last year, Food Lion had a 5.9% share of the Washington market, according to data from Metro Market Studies, Tucson, Ariz. That included sales from 38 Bloom stores, 20 traditional Food Lions and 13 discount Bottom Dollars.