Will Harris Teeter customers suffer after Kroger acquisition?

Paula Duffy's picture

Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the country announced the acquisition of the Harris Teeter Supermarkets, Inc.. Customers hope it doesn't lose its unique qualities.

Harris Teeter and its 212 stores located throughout the southeast and Mid-Atlantic states of the U.S. will no longer stand alone as a grocery chain.

Kroger paid $2.4 billion for it and according to the Wall Street Journal report, it intends to operate it as a separate business.

Kroger Chief Executive David Dillon said in an interview. with the Journal that, "Kroger will keep the attributes that made Harris Teeter attractive—including the name and the chain's managers—and it will be operated as a separate division."

One of the driving forces in the acquisition reportedly relates to fierce competition between Kroger and Wal-Mart in for grocery customers.

The USA Today published a list of the top grossing food store chains in the country. Wal-Mart tops the list with Kroger second. Harris Teeter ranks 33rd with $4.5.

With the Harris Teeter stores added to its mix, Kroger will have what is described as an upscale presence in the food business.

While the Harris Teeter stores have that feel to them and the chain does very well with boutique departments in its locations that offer sushi, a salad bar and custom made sandwiches, it is also their competitive pricing on store-brands that drives the crowds.

How does the company have it both ways?

Some of it is the location of the stores. Many are based in or near high-income areas as well as in close to proximity to university campuses and vacation destination spots.

The use of brown paper bags with handles appeals to environmental conscious consumers and the company has achieved a homey, neighborhood feel to it despite its size.

"I love their incredible amount of organic and locally grown produce," said Mallorie Sullivan, a Virginia customer.

It touts the in-house brand that competes with almost every category of grocery items sold. Harris Teeter's line branded H.T. Traders offers ethnic and international specialty foods.

Here is some of what customers say about their experience with Harris Teeter:

A Raleigh, NC executive told the Journal that despite living within a mile of a Kroger store, she shops at Harris Teeter. "Harris Teeter is much more clean and bright, the merchandising is done well, the cashiers are chatty and helpful," she said.

A Maryland shopper spoke with USA Today and said that he enjoys the atmosphere and deals with higher prices in this way. "Good overall shopping experience," shopper Mike Maynard said on Tuesday. But he added, "It's best to shop with coupons in hand."

Some are wary of the move and are using a wait-and-see attitude. It's probably for the best.

If you shop at Harris Teeter, share your thoughts in the comments section below. What do you think of the deal?

Image: Flickr via Google Images