Kroger said Tuesday it is acquiring all 212 Harris Teeter Supermarket
stores for $2.4 billion, but plans to keep management and operations
That's likely good news to the loyal customers of the
chain's stores, which operate in eight southeastern and Mid-Atlantic
states and in Washington, D.C.
Like its more upscale rivals in
metro-area suburbs along the Eastern Seaboard, shopping at a Harris
Teeter store is as much about the experience as it about the quality and
the price of the products headed for the cart.
Its high, white
ceilings and "farmer's market" decor are aimed at making shoppers feel
more like they're at a neighborhood market - albeit one with some
Harris Teeter has all the staples - diapers,
laundry detergent, soft drinks, beer - displayed in spacious aisles and
at competitive prices. It carries a wide array of brands from its own
low-price store brand to high-end boutique brands.
The store has a
reputation for featuring quality and competitively priced fresh produce
that caters to local shoppers' tastes, as well as fresh and frozen
offerings at its butcher and seafood stations.
But it's perhaps
best known for its 24/7 availability of prepared foods from on-site
delis and bakeries. Cakes, soups, salads and sandwiches can be made to
order. There is a wide selection of sushi, as well as in-store salad and
prepared foods bars. Some locations also offer online ordering with
pickup at the store.
However, the atmosphere shows up in slightly
higher prices, at least compared with grocery chains that focus on the
lowest price at the expense of creating a shopping experience.
overall shopping experience," shopper Mike Maynard, a Maryland
resident, said on Tuesday. But he added, "It's best to shop with coupons
Harris Teeter keeps prices overall lower with its own private brand
version of nearly every product it sells, including its own line of
international and ethnic foods called H.T. Traders. It also has its own
line of pet products, baby products, home products and organic food
The signs for the various sections in the store -
produce, flowers, pharmacy, etc. - look like they came out of the 1970s,
and the stores deliberately cultivate an atmosphere of a old
neighborhood grocery store, down to the brown paper bags with handles - a
favorite of some shoppers.
"I love their incredible amount of organic and locally grown produce," said Mallorie Sullivan of Norfolk, Va., on Tuesday.
the company's website, Harris Teeter has a section called "meet your
neighbor," which shows customers where its fish is caught, where its
oranges are grown and where its beef is raised. The store also has a
loyalty brand program, dubbed VIC, for "very important customers."
buy is a big boost for Kroger, the country's largest grocery chain,
said Van Conway, CEO of Conway MacKenzie. But he isn't convinced Kroger
will leave the Harris Teeter brand alone over the long run.
is a $2.5 billion deal. Obviously, Kroger believes there's a profit to
be made in acquiring Harris Teeter," said Conway. "But they don't want
to trample customers and employees and push people away by changing
things too fast. I think slowly you'll see Kroger tinkering with Harris