|Founded||1954Wilkesboro, North Carolina, USAin|
|Headquarters||Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA|
Number of locations
|80 Stores (2019) 74 Lowes Foods and 7 Just $ave|
|South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky|
|Products||Grocery, deli, bakery, meat, seafood, produce, dairy, floral, online ordering, delivery, fuel|
|Revenue||$1.6 billion (2007)|
|Parent||Alex Lee Inc.|
Lowes Foods is an American supermarket chain based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The chain initially grew in the mountains of North Carolina and rural areas of Virginia, but, starting in the late 1990s, it expanded in metropolitan areas of North Carolina and South Carolina.
Lowes Foods started in 1954 in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, with a single store opened by Jim Lowe (former co-owner of what became Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, and son of its founder). Lowe sold that store to J. C. Faw. Expansion in Wilkesboro and the mountain regions of NC shortly followed.
In 1984, Merchants Distributors, Inc. (MDI), a wholesale distributor of food and non-food items to grocery stores headquartered in Hickory, North Carolina, bought Lowes Foods. Lowes added 19 more stores between 1986 and 1990.
In 1997, MDI parent company Alex Lee bought Byrd's Food Stores Inc. of Burlington, North Carolina, which had 43 stores. Lowes Foods had 56 stores, few in the area served by Byrd's. The Byrd's stores became Lowes Foods stores. In 2000, Delhaize America had to sell 38 Hannaford stores to satisfy antitrust concerns. Lowes Foods bought 12 of these, six (plus one under construction) in the Research Triangle region and six along the North Carolina coast.
In 2007, Lowes Foods opened its first fuel station at a Hickory, North Carolina, store. As of August 2016, 14 Lowes Foods stores had fuel stations. Lowes Foods offered a five-cent discount per gallon of gas with each $100 spent inside the store (excl. alcohol and gift card purchases) which was redeemable at Lowes Foods fuel stations or any participating Speedway or WilcoHess locations in North and South Carolina.
Until October 4, 2009, Lowes Foods used S&H Greenpoints on their store discount card; this was replaced with "Fresh Rewards" on October 5, 2009. Many of Lowes Foods stores also offer Lowes Foods to Go, where shoppers can order groceries online and drive to the store to pick them up. Business and home delivery is available at select locations throughout North and South Carolina.
In March 2011, Lowes Foods opened a 'frugal cousin' series of stores called Just $ave. These stores are located all in North Carolina and mainly in rural areas, targeting budget-conscious shoppers. The first location opened was in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina. In August 2011, Lowes Foods began the Aisle50 program in the Carolinas, intending to expand to other areas and other chains in the future. Deals from aisle50.com will not likely replace coupons, but shoppers will be able to buy certain products for about half their normal prices.
On June 1, 2012, the company announced that they were leaving the Charlotte, North Carolina, market by trading ten Charlotte area stores with Harris Teeter for six Western North Carolina stores and $26.5 million in cash. By March 2015, Lowes Foods began shifting its store portfolio and had closed five of the six stores it acquired from Harris Teeter as well as stores in Cary, Newland, West Jefferson, and Greenville, North Carolina. These closures were announced as part of a comprehensive growth strategy that would include rebranding all existing Lowes Foods stores by 2019 and entering into the Greenville, South Carolina market in 2016. Lowes Foods plans to add three to five Greenville stores as part of its growth strategy.
In 2013, Lowes Foods wanted to "break the mold of the standard supermarket" and wanted to invent a new concept for their locations that shows their "Carolina Roots." The development began with in depth consumer research and a series of overnight workshops designed to get the very best ideas from managers across all facets of the business including all store managers and many from MDI. During these workshops, Lowes Foods finally got an idea related to the new concept, a number of new concepts were created including Chicken Kitchen, SausageWorks, Pick & Prep, and the Community Table. In early 2014, Lowes Foods remodeled their location in Clemmons, NC (which is in Forsyth County where the headquarters is at). This was the first location to feature the new concept. There was also a new Pizza and Panini program that was also added in the Deli which would later become part of the Sammy's Concept in later renovations and new locations. concepts like the Sammy's Sandwich Shop. More renovations and new locations were done between 2015 & 2018 around North and South Carolina with more coming soon.
In August 2016, Lowes Foods announced the closures of two Lowes Foods stores in North Wilkesboro and Shallotte, North Carolina, as well as a Just $ave location in Dobson, North Carolina. In July 2019, the closures of three stores—two in the Hickory, North Carolina-area, as well as the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, location on Cipriana Drive, was announced. The closures are part of an overall investment strategy to accelerate growth.
Alex Lee Inc.
Around 1920, A.C. Kelly took over Merchants Produce Company of Hickory, a wholesale fruit and produce company. In 1931, Moses George, a Shelby, North Carolina grocer, bought Merchants Produce for $17,000 and began running it with his sons Alex and G.L. George. Merchants Produce took advantage of the trend away from "mom-and-pop" grocery stores, as chain stores became common. In 1938, the name changed to Merchants Produce and Grocery as the company became an important distributor of merchandise to the independent stores in North Carolina and South Carolina. After Moses George died in 1947, his sons Alex and Lee took over the business, along with daughter Josephine. The name changed to Merchants Distributors Inc. or MDI in 1956. By 1960, MDI had over 130 employees and supplied 400 grocery stores within 150 miles. Alex George was president, and the company added a $1 million, four-acre facility on Twelfth Street. In 1965, MDI began selling to schools and eventually merged its MDI Foodservice with James Wholesale Company, also in Hickory, forming Institution Food House (IFH), with Lee George as president. Norman James was vice president; after his death, the Lee brothers bought his share of the company and made IFH a subsidiary of MDI. Lee George retired in 1980 but remained chairman.
After MDI bought Institution Food House, in 1992, MDI reorganized as a holding company, Alex Lee, Inc., with MDI, IFH and Lowes Foods as subsidiaries, named for Alex and Lee George. MDI president Boyd Lee George, grandson of the founder, became chairman and president, remaining as chairman of MDI.
In 1993, MDI became a distribution center for Independent Grocers Alliance. In addition to providing the IGA stores with low-priced merchandise, this arrangement allowed IGA to take advantage of the advertising and merchandising skills of MDI.
Also in 1995, MDI announced plans for a $60 million plant in Caldwell County. The company received $5.5 million in economic incentives from Caldwell County and Hickory, with plans for Hickory to annex the site and turn part of it into an industrial park (though as of 2008 the city had done nothing with its part of the land). This arrangement created controversy because the North Carolina Supreme Court had not yet ruled on whether such economic incentives to keep businesses were constitutional. Two years later, the distribution center was complete, though neighbors complained about the noise, and a few people claimed construction damaged their nearby homes. IFH took over the former MDI location.
Alex Lee Inc. announced on October 28, 2019 that it had completed its purchase of Scranton, South Carolina-based W. Lee Flowers & Co., a wholesale distributor which supplies 75 IGA and KJ's Market stores, 50 of which the company owned.
On September 1, 2020, Alex Lee, Inc announced that it was purchasing 20 BI-LO stores in South Carolina and Georgia from Southeastern Grocers with the intent to rebrand 15 of the stores as KJ's Market IGA with the other 5 rebranded under the Lowes Foods banner.
|Lowes Foods||Just $ave||Fuel Centers||Total stores|
Lowes Foods and Just $ave are considered "stores". Fuel Centers are part of actual stores and therefore do not count towards total store counts.
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