Food Lion bets on Bottom Dollar in Mooresville

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
MOORESVILLE ó Before 8 a.m. Wednesday, Linda Troutman waited amid a long line of orange shopping carts for the grand opening of the new Bottom Dollar Food store.
She had a Sunday’s newspaper advertisement with her, promoting prices that were good enough to get her excited.
– $1.97 for a 12-pack of Cheerwine.
– $1.98 for a 10-pound bag of potatoes.
– $2.57 for a Tombstone pizza.
“In Troutman,” she said, “we don’t have anything but a Food Lion store. We need one of these.”
Bottom Dollar Food, actually part of the Food Lion family, touts itself as a “discount grocer with a light-hearted atmosphere.”
Signs around the store say things such as “It’s OK to Point,” “Stop, Shop and Drool” and “Savo-licious.”
The Mooresville store at 247 Plaza Drive East represents the brand’s prototype store and its fifth location in North Carolina. In all, it’s the 28th Bottom Dollar Food store in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland and the first one not converted from a former Food Lion.
The prototype of 20,000 square feet is heavy on lime green and orange colors, and Director of Operations Tom Anderson says it tries to satisfy three priorities of shoppers as suggested by significant company research: low prices, convenience and cleanliness.
“We can move forward from here,” Anderson said minutes after all the store’s shopping carts were taken and long lines were forming behind the cash registers.
“We’ve hit the nail on this.”
Bottom Dollar Food features national name brand and private label (Food Lion and Smart Choice) products, fresh produce and meats cut by on-site butchers.
The emphasis is on price and the traditional selection of merchandise. You’ll find the best sellers here and a comparable Food Lion or Smart Option item (always at the lowest retail price). Anderson said it’s not necessarily the place you would come for a specialty olive oil or deli item.
One unique feature of the prototype is the walk-in produce cooler ó kept at a chilly 52 degrees ó that’s part of the sales floor.
If you find something somewhere else that is cheaper than Bottom Dollar’s price, the store will match the competitor’s price, minus a penny.
“We’re about price,” Anderson said. “… And we very much avoid changing prices.”
Waiting to check out Wednesday morning, Teresa McCann said she liked the store’s selection, the ease in getting around the store, the cleanliness and the prices, which especially will draw her back.
She has been out of work since January.
McCann’s cart included a 10-pound bag of chicken quarters for $3.80, one of the store’s “while-supplies-last” items offered on a regular basis. Free membership cards allow customers to take advantage of those sales.
A “Bottom Bargains” section in the middle of the store also offers general merchandise at lower-than-usual prices.
Libby Buchanan, who lives in the Enochville-Atwell section of China Grove, said she traveled the 15 minutes to the new Mooresville Bottom Dollar to stock up on some canned goods. She received a circular in the mail Tuesday that piqued her interest.
“I saw some real good prices,” she said.
Sarah Carr, who operates a child-care center, waited in line for the opening Wednesday morning in hopes she would find items that fit her business budget. Cee Cee Phillips was looking for salads or salad ingredients.
Ronald Lee said he hoped to save 5 to 10 percent at Bottom Dollar over shopping at Wal-Mart.
Bottom Dollar Food uses a piggy bank as part of its branding, and the store had small piggy banks tucked away in all corners of the store for the first-day shoppers. Shoppers who found a piggy bank got to keep it and the coupons inside.
Bottom Dollar debuted as a pilot store for the Food Lion family of stores (Food Lion, Harveys, Reid’s and Bloom are others) in 2005 in High Point, followed quickly by stores in Mount Airy, Asheboro and Hickory. The focus and rebranding to Bottom Dollar Food shifted to the Northern Virginia and Washington-D.C. area (13 stores), followed by 10 more stores in the Hampton Roads region around Norfolk in 2007.
The Mooresville prototype represents the first Bottom Dollar “based on what we wanted it to look like,” Anderson said. The previous Food Lion conversions were made in stores too big (about 35,000 square feet) for what Bottom Dollar really sought as its footprint.
In Mooresville, Bottom Dollar negotiated for about half of a former 50,000-square-foot Bi-Lo store and designed the prototype from scratch. The prototype’s opening was a celebration of sorts for Salisbury-based Summit Salcoa LLC general contractors.
Summit Salcoa serves as a major contractor for various Food Lion stores on the East Coast, and it built the Mooresville prototype.
A.D. Powell, a principal in Summit Salcoa, liked the result.
“This is where they (customers) can shop and protect the family budget,” he said.
Four weeks of mailings went to households in a wide zip code range around Mooresville.
Anderson made talks to economic development, Chamber of Commerce and city officials. Food Lion also hit local newspapers with advertisements and got a lot of word-of-mouth mileage from the many Mooresville residents who work at Food Lion’s corporate headquarters in Salisbury.
It led to an overwhelming first day and Food Lion officials’ hopes that they can bet their Bottom Dollar in the future.