Food Lion unveiled a roaring renovation Wednesday at its Sampson locations and nearly 160 others, a facelift that company officials say will better serve customers and expand offerings for which they have clamored.
The ribbon was cut on the new shopping experience for 162 stores in the greater Raleigh market, part of a $250 million capital investment the company made this year — the largest in the grocer’s history. The total investment in the market includes remodeling the stores, lowering prices and investing in associates and in the community.
The Raleigh market encompasses stores from Raleigh to Goldsboro to Fayetteville, including the three Sampson locations in Clinton, Roseboro and Newton Grove. Each celebrated on Wednesday with ribbon-cuttings and giveaways, with the first 100 people in line Wednesday morning receiving a free bag of groceries and other goodies.
Sean Mitchell, store manager at the Clinton location on North Boulevard, said the Raleigh market is the second wave of renovations, the first wave coming with about 80 Food Lion stores on the coast and up to Greenville.
“It’s all about the customers and the feedback has been incredibly positive,” Mitchell said of the renovations.
And first thing Wednesday morning, they gathered in a growing queue in front of the Sampson stores to get free groceries.
“We had them lined up at 5:15 a.m.,” Mitchell noted.
From Thursday through Saturday morning, the first 100 customers will get a stuffed Food Lion animal and a reusable grocery bag. Mitchell said it was a great sight to see so many customers at the store. They are the reason for the project in the first place, he pointed out.
“Basically, the whole store was changed around to offer thousands more items and have things located where it made sense,” Mitchell said. “It goes back to our motto — easy, fresh and affordable.”
That included revamping the produce area and offering a full gluten-free section, a suggestion from customers, who factored heavily in the renovations. The new assortment of products also includes an abundant selection of fresh meat and produce, a growing selection of Nature’s Place beef, pork and poultry items free from unwanted ingredients and a new Taste of Inspirations premium line of deli meats and cheeses.
There will be weekend deals from Friday to Sunday and hot meals with sides available seven days a week. The grocer now has a wider variety of grab-and-go items and pre-sliced deli meats and cheeses, which are sliced fresh daily and available for customers to pick up without waiting in line.
One of the primary goals was to make checkout faster, so construction included making those areas open to offer more convenience and easier assistance for customers, and to ease what Mitchell called the “heavy-lifting” of some items. Those checking out will also see improved technology and larger display screens so they can see prices as they are scanned.
Additionally, if customers need some help taking groceries to the car, associates will be on hand to do that. The company has made a move toward hiring more people and, in a further move toward customer service, each associate is also now equipped with a mic and earpiece to provide easier communication across the store in cases of questions or concerns from shoppers.
“We did this remodel because the customers asked for it,” Mitchell said. “We did a lot of testing and (the company) is constantly conducting surveys to find out what the customer wants.”
All told, Mitchell said the entire process took about 10 months, with the majority of the actual construction taking a small portion of that. Training employees on the new system took a larger chunk of time to ensure the new-look store was accompanied by newly-trained and dedicated people to man it.
There are nearly 50 people employed at the North Boulevard location alone, 17 of them full-time workers. Serving 10 million customers each week at more than 1,100 locations in 10 states, the company was founded as Food Town in 1957 and still calls Salisbury, N.C., its hometown.
“Food Lion has been a proud neighbor in the Raleigh community for 40 years,” said Meg Ham, president of Food Lion. “On the anniversary of our four decades in the market, we spent the year making significant investments in our stores, our customers, our associates and our community to offer a new grocery shopping experience where customers can easily find fresh, quality products at affordable prices every day, delivered with caring, friendly service every time they shop.”
“With every change we made in our stores, we had our customers at the forefront with a key focus on how can we better connect with those we serve to make their life a little easier and a little better,” added Ham.
That public has taken notice, Mitchell noted.
“I get at least a couple dozen compliments a day,” he said, “and we’re actually getting ‘thank you’ cards.”
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