First Look: Walmart Neighborhood Market

Story and photos by Hal Goodtree.

Cary, NC – I stopped by the new Walmart Neighborhood Market last week and had a quick look around. Here’s my take on the new store at the corner of High House and Highway 55.

Walmart Neighborhood Market

Walmart’s new store, a supermarket initiative, occupies the old Kroger space near West Park. Just last year, the very same spot was at the center of a massive controversy swirling around the potential tenancy of an immigration (ICE) facility.

ICE went away, thanks to a well-organized effort by the West Park HOA and Cary officials. It was with a sigh of relief that most in the community greeted the news that another tenant had stepped forward with plans for the former Kroger store. It’s a big property and had sat vacant for a number of years.

Last Thursday was bright and sunny. I had just dropped my younger daughter off at gymnastics. Approaching the corner of High House, I could see shoppers going in and out of the new Walmart store. I darted into the parking lot to have a look for myself.

First Impressions

Everything was clean and shiny as I approached the brand new Walmart Neighborhood Market. Balloons decorated the entrance and happy greeters were in abundance. I certainly felt welcome and part of the excitement.

With a whoosh, the doors opened in front of me.

I had heard that Walmart Neighborhood Markets were “smaller” stores. Smaller than an aircraft carrier perhaps, but my impression walking through the front door was “big.” It is certainly smaller than a Walmart Superstore or Sam’s Club, but it feels every bit as large as the largest supermarkets in Cary.

Nothing wrong with big. I like choices when I do my food shopping. But there’s nothing particularly “neighborhood-y” about the new store. I took my bearings and walked around.

Walmart Neighborhood Market has everything you’d expect in a Cary supermarket – nice looking fresh baked goods, a large produce section, and aisle upon aisle of packaged goods. All your favorite brands are there. There’s a deli, a meat department and a fish counter.

In fact, Walmart Neighborhood Market looks like a lot like a slightly less fancy Harris Teeter. Slightly. It’s very Harris Teeter-like.

First impression – if you like Harris Teeter but think it’s too expensive, you may like Walmart Neighborhood Market.

Save Money?

Of course, the point of discount stores is to save money. I do most of the food shopping in my family and I’m finely attuned to prices. Okay, I’m cheap. I prefer frugalista, but whatever.

My second impression – things were not so cheap at Walmart Neighborhood Market. I expected big discounts, but the savings were modest.

Big brand names predominate the store – Nabisco, Kellogg’s, P&G products. You’ll save a little bit at Walmart, but branded products always command a premium.

Typical offering – 2 for $4.99 on chips at WNM, 2 for $6.00 at H/T.

Hey, it’s a buck.

Ruined by Aldi

The truth is, I’ve been ruined by Aldi. Now that’s a discount supermarket. Chips, cookies, cereal are mostly under $2.00. Coffee is $3.99-$5.99. They have a nice German roast we enjoy at my house.

If you want to save money, Aldi is the place to go in Cary. Walmart Neighborhood Market can’t touch them.

The Problem of Positioning

Positioning is the art and science of deciding where your product fits into the cosmos of your competitors. Full disclosure – I did a lot of work for P&G and General Foods during my previous career as an ad guy. I’m finely tuned to the intricacies of positioning.

I was surprised by the positioning of the Walmart supermarket. Much closer to Harris Teeter than Aldi. That puts them on a par with Kroger and Lowes. Maybe Food Lion.

This is a tough spot. Ask Food Lion. Value shoppers are going to Aldi. Quality shoppers are going to Harris Teeter, Whole Foods and Fresh Market. The retailers in the middle are caught in a squeeze.

Attention Walmart Shoppers

The pitch may be to leverage Walmart’s popular brand and traditional customers into grocery sales. Like Target or Dillard or Starbucks, Walmart customers are loyal and believe the store delivers on its brand promise (“save money, live better”).

Walmart shoppers will not be disappointed in the new supermarket. It delivers a surprising upscale shopping experience and you’ll save a few bucks over Harris Teeter.

I doubt they will steal many Harris Teeter customers. They may pressure Food Lion and Lowes. Aldi has nothing to worry about.

More Walmarts on the Way?

Talk is circulating that Walmart is set to occupy the old Food Lion on Harrison and Maynard. That’s right across the street from Aldi and a Harris Teeter, putting a third supermarket at that one intersection. Now that’s going to be interesting.

Also circulating is news that Walmart may open a third supermarket in the area at the corner of Davis Drive and Morrisville-Carpenter Rd.

This all makes perfect sense. Many marketers go big when they decide to get into a market, opening several locations close together to maximize savings on distribution and warehousing.

Choice is Good

In any event, choice is good. We are fortunate in Cary to have lots of choices and the newest ideas in retailing all across our town.

17 replies
  1. helen eister
    helen eister says:

    Here in littletown ( Sycamore Ga) America, We are so happy that Wal mart will soon have a market in Ashburn,Ga. The only grocer in our county really puts it to the unfortunate people who have to walk to the store and then face the very expensive food prices. There a few foodmarts in the next “big town” but that is 18 miles down I75.
    So, come on Wal mart.

  2. Gary in Cary, NC
    Gary in Cary, NC says:

    Morrsiville Wal-Mart grocery store opened today in Morrisville, at site of former Ace Hardware.

    Free ice cream samples from Blue Belle!

    Manager Maurice told me they provided about 100 jobs.

    Another one opens soon in former Northwoods Food Lion at Maynard and Harrison.

    New store in Morrisville has a mini deli with sliced to order meats, etc., rotisserie chickens, etc.

    Much easier, safer access by car compared to 55 & High House store.

    Went to H-T further up Davis Dr. to use some doubled coupons on some much higher-priced stuff.

    The three H-Ts near these two stores have some real competition, which is great for the consumer.

  3. frances reynolds
    frances reynolds says:

    The new manager and the employee who works back toward the pharmacy
    (where I get Nicorette gum) are very rude and arrogrant _ I shop at this Walmart every day and they wanted to arrest me for stealing
    I can’t afford to go to another store I am 73 and live off of social security I will NOW HAVE TO FIND ANOTHER STORE ALSO THE PRICES ARE NOTHING TO BRAG ABOUT

  4. Gary
    Gary says:

    This store has faster checkout (more staff) than the bigger store over in Apex near US 1!

    However, all staff seem so new and they often (2X) miss scanning coupons properly.

    Produce is excellent quality for price paid!

    Waiting for the Publix on Harrison to open!!!

  5. John
    John says:

    I’ve shopped in this new hwy 55 wal mart 5 or 6 times now and although the prices are good, the customer service is terrible. It seems as though management has gone out of their way to hire people with no social skills who have no business interacting with the public. With 2 harris teeters and a lowe’s food very close by, and the chick-fil-a example of customer service influencing those stores, cary shoppers will definitely notice the difference. If you like people who are clearly annoyed with being at work and who can muster no more than a gesture and a grunt, then this wal mart grocery is for you. If you like eye contact, and friendly people speaking in sentences, then go across the street to HT or down the block to lowe’s. The old adage that “you get what you pay for” is very apparent at the new wal mart.

  6. Norm
    Norm says:

    I stopped in the new Walmart neighborhood market. Fairly nice, but I usually shop at Harris Teeter. Prices didn’t impress me as being any great savings. The Walmart market is nice, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to shop there. There wasn’t much to make it stand out as unique.

  7. Cary Couponer
    Cary Couponer says:

    While I applaud the effort to bring in a tenant that will use the space in a shopping center that desparately needed a jolt in traffic, it saddens me that there are still people out there that are comparing Harris Teeter prices to Walmart. There is no offense intended in this reply, just an educational enlightenment. When I first moved to North Carolina from New York, all I ever heard from the local masses was how expensive HT was and how you were better off at Food Lion or Kroger or Walmart.

    It took me about a year to discover that HT is actually among the best places to save money and make your budget stretch. While regular prices at HT compared to others may be a bit higher, that scenario drastically changes when you take 1/2 hour out of your week to grab coupons and plan out your shopping trip. Those that know – we are not “extreme couponers”; we are “highly educated in the ways of how coupons work” – know that you can score anywhere from $40-$150 worth of groceries for $15 or less – depending on the sales – if you take a fraction of time in your week to plan.

    Walmart does not offer any coupon doubling or customer incentive plans where HT does. I have yet to see any sale or offer in any Walmart where I can walk out the door with $50 worth of groceries and have only paid $8.40 (that includes tax).

    So while I may peek into the new WM to see what all the hub-bub is about, I will still go across the street and save 80% or more on what I need at HT.

  8. common tater
    common tater says:

    Lots of accidents there with people turning left from HT and WM at the same time, across fast heavy traffic. Go behind Blockbuster and to the light at Westpark is the best bet. It seems WM is trying to push out HT…hope it doesn’t happen. But I’ve been in several small towns lately and have seen the negative impact of Walmart’s buying power. It’s sad to see the smaller guys pushed out when they can’t compete.

    • Philip
      Philip says:

      The thing is this. Other stores CAN compete with Walmart. They can either do it with customer service OR they can stop trying to be Bigpockets McGee and pass some of the money they’re making to the customer in terms of lower prices.

      Don’t blame WalMart for the decline of the small mom and pop shops. If you want someone to blame, you should look back to shopping malls, before that look at stores like Sears. Mom and pop shops and quaint little downtowns have been closing up well before 1962 when Walmart opened their doors. It is just natural evolution of the market. People want to make as few stops as possible while spending as little as possible.

  9. Gary
    Gary says:

    One of the staff at the liquidating hardware store on Davis Dr. told me last week that Wal-Mart would occupy their store AND the long-vacant, never-occupied adjacent storefront!

    Wal-Mart’s produce selection, quality and pricing really gives them a local competitive edge, I feel.

  10. Gary
    Gary says:

    That corner suffers from poor traffic flow for those exiting on to southbound RT 55 with a load of groceries.

    Tried today at 4 PM on a Sunday! Yuck.

    I always felt that’s why Kroger did not survive in same store…

    Traffic signal needed!

  11. Theo
    Theo says:


    Thanks for the nice and informative post. I truly enjoyed reading it. I’ll add the new WNMs to my “frugalista” comparison shopping in the Cary-Morrisville area.


  12. Lee
    Lee says:

    Walmart is definitely coming to the old hardware store at Davis and Morrisville Carpenter. I call the town a few weeks ago and they already have issued a building permit for it.

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