Walmart’s latest Charlotte store just opened about a half mile from my neighborhood (technically it’s in Pineville, but just barely), and after talking to friends and neighbors, it quickly became clear to me that people don’t really understand what to shop for at this new store.
Walmart already operates two Neighborhood Markets in east Charlotte — one on East W. T. Harris Boulevard and another on Independence Boulevard. The company is building another in Concord. Neighborhood Markets mostly focus on groceries — but it still has some important differences from your corner Harris Teeter.
Here’s why more Neighborhood Markets will keep popping up in Charlotte and your guide to shopping these stores.
Why Neighborhood Markets will work
Wait — didn’t Walmart just announce it’s closing a bunch of stores? The company is shelving its Express store concept, which basically tried to introduce mini grocery stores in small, rural towns.
Walmart’s traditional supercenters face an uphill battle finding real estate in many urban areas, Charlotte included. You’ll notice in the above map that most of its locations are on the perimeter of town near the main highways.
Neighborhood Markets haven’t deviated from this pattern too much, but because they have the footprint of traditional grocery stores, Walmart has a lot more options. While you might not see a Neighborhood Market pop up in the middle of SouthPark soon, they certainly could start appearing in growing areas — think west Charlotte.
What should I buy here?
The announcement divided people on my Facebook feed. If you’re one of those shoppers who never visit Walmart, that’s fine. The truth is, this is a very good option for people who are buying shelf-stable foods: canned and boxed goods in the center of the store.
Seriously, they had my favorite box of Betty Crocker brownie mix listed for a little less than the sale price at Harris Teeter.
Neighborhood Market also has some serious jumbo sizes of items such as orange juice and salsa that you can’t find at your regular grocer. (Party time?)
They have both sides of an entire aisle devoted to baby food, diapers and other gear. That beats the one-third of an aisle they have devoted to it at my Harris Teeter. Their beauty product and cleaning supplies selection is also much wider.
What should I avoid?
You won’t find items from full-size Walmarts, such as clothing, accessories and home goods at Neighborhood Markets.
The center of the store is definitely Walmart’s strength. You can find a decent selection of produce, baked goods and deli items, but it’s not where you should spend your money if you’re making a trip here. Competitors like Harris Teeter, Publix and Fresh Market are still the best in that arena.
A Neighborhood Market isn’t where you’ll stop by at lunch or to pick up a prepared meal on your way home from work. And that’s not a bad thing. Neighborhood Markets aren’t going to put those stores out of business.
Food Lion has more to lose. There’s one that’s practically next door to the new Pineville store. It has perennially long lines — and no self-scan option.
You’ll definitely find me at the Neighborhood Market if I have to pick between the two.