Bi-Lo executives are hoping that customers won't drive to their newest Hanahan grocery store just for a jug of milk or a loaf of bread.
Instead, they're aiming to draw shoppers to their Super Bi-Lo location, the first of its kind in the Charleston area, with an expanded selection of food items.
For example, a walk down the store's shiny aisles shows that it offers seven flavors of single-portion Kraft Easy Mac packages, including bacon and alfredo, and six combinations of toppings on the Southern Home frozen pizzas — just for the line of thin crust pies.
The store also has a noticeably larger selection of imported spices, a chicken wing bar and a wine selection that's 40 percent larger than conventional Bi-Lo stores. Freshly cooked rotisserie chickens are guaranteed to be in stock during certain hours of the day.
Rusty Streetman, the Upstate-based chain's regional vice president, said a regular Bi-Lo typically stocks about 30,000 items, but the Super Bi-Lo concept stores have more than 36,000 items on the shelves. Customers have responded favorably to the new layouts, which require about 130 employees.
"Every time we've opened up this concept, we've done well," he said.
Bi-Lo is marking the opening today at 7:30 a.m. of its 48,000-square-foot store, which is in a new shopping center at the entrance to Tanner Plantation off North Rhett Avenue. The first 100 shoppers in line get a $50 gift card.
It marks the Southeastern company's
20th Super Bi-Lo location since it introduced the concept in 2005. The next one is scheduled to open on James Island in October and offer even more items, including beer kegs.
"Those'll sell great on Folly Beach," Streetman said.
The Super Bi-Lo emerged as other large retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Target, have made a big push into in the grocery business by putting supermarkets and discount stores under one roof. Unlike those chains, Streetman said that Bi-Lo's deluxe version of itself will still focus solely on the food.
The expanded selection not only offers more flavors but more sizes too. One of the store's bulk sections stocked one-gallon jugs of Duke's Mayonnaise and a can of almost seven pounds of orange-colored nacho cheese, while the frozen section had mini-cups of Ben and Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream.
Another Super Bi-Lo feature is that some parts of the store are open longer than usual. For instance, the pharmacy — complete with a drive-thru — is the chain's only Charleston-area location open on Sundays. It also has extended hours the rest of the week.
Bi-Lo hopes that customers will embrace the concept, even during a time when they might not be looking to put extra items in the cart. Higher gas prices and inflation have pushed up the price of many basic food items. For instance, a gallon of Coburg milk at the new store was priced above $6.
Bi-Lo spokesman John Taylor said that customers have coped with the higher prices by opting for more store-brand items like the company's Southern Home private-label foods, which typically sell for 20 percent less than name brands.
Founded: 1964 by Frank Outlaw
Headquarters: Mauldin, near Greenville
Locations: About 220 in the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee
Employees: About 17,000
Top executive: Brian Hotarek
Owner: Private equity firm Lone Star Funds, which in April 2007 said it was seeking a buyer for the supermarket chain. No deal has materialized.
Background: Bi-Lo last year said would invest $40 million to overhaul most of its 14 existing Charleston-area stores, by either remodeling them or converting them to the Super Bi-Lo format, by 2010.