The “grocery apocalypse” claims another small independent grocer. Piggly Wiggly in Cullman, Alabama will be closing its doors for good in the next three weeks.
The supermarket chain has announced a number of closures in 2017.
This illustrates the challenges even established grocers are facing in an era of increased competition from Wal-Mart Stores Inc (NYSE:WMT), Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), and new grocers like Aldi.
Piggly Wiggly is an affiliate of C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., which owns the Piggly Wiggly brand. Each store is independently franchised to store operators.
Piggly Wiggly Grocery Store in Alabama to Close in December
The Piggly Wiggly grocery store located at 4933 Alabama Highway 157 in Cullman will be permanently shuttering its doors in December. The owners said they will be holding a closeout sale in the weeks leading up to the closure.
Jerold and Melanie Russell, owners of the Cullman Piggly Wiggly, could not confirm a closing date, but said it would occur in the next few weeks. “We’ll be closed by the end of the year,” Jerold Russell said.
“It is always disappointing when a business closes that has had a long, successful operation in the community,” said Dale Greer, director of the Cullman Economic Development Agency (CEDA).
Susan Eller, CEDA Retail Development Manager, added, “We hate to see them close their doors. Many people have shopped there for years and will miss the experience. There are locals who think this is the only place to shop and will be so disappointed to hear this news.”
The owners have not confirmed why they were closing up, but it seems to follow a familiar trend of a saturated market, tight margins, and growing difficulty for smaller grocers to compete with big box chains like Walmart.
Piggly Wiggly was founded in Memphis, Tennessee in 1916 and positions itself as the country’s first self-serve grocery store. At the time, shoppers gave their list to order clerks, who gathered the goods from the store shelves. Piggly Wiggly revolutionized the grocery industry by providing shoppers with baskets and allowing them to serve themselves.
More Piggly Wiggly Stores Closures in 2017: Competition from Wal-Mart led to Sales Decline
Piggly Wiggly grocery stores have been quietly closing all year long. In September, Mr. K’s Piggly Wiggly, located at 1605 Central Avenue near Summerville, South Carolina, closed up less than a year after Wal-Mart set up across the street.
Piggly Wiggly franchise owner Jim Kersting said the store is closing due to the Wal-Mart that opened up across the street in November 2016. A Publix Supermarket also opened up nearby.
Kersting noted it is difficult to compete with big chain stores that can sell their products more cheaply, stating that, “The independent grocer doesn’t have the same tools and depth that larger companies can pull.”
The 27,000-square-foot Mr. K’s Piggly Wiggly employed between 20 and 25 workers.
In mid-July, an independently owned Piggly Wiggly on West Beltline Boulevard in Columbia, South Carolina announced it was closings its grocery store and restaurant. This location employed around 70 workers.
“Sales are down and the lease is up,” said Chuck Fogle, owner of Fogle Inc., which operates a number of Piggly Wiggly stores in South Carolina.
Piggly Wiggly’s presence has waned in the Columbia area over the last number of years. In 2014, the Piggly Wiggly in Northeast Richland closed due to falling sales. In 2013, Piggly Wiggly sold 22 stores in South Carolina and Georgia to Bi-Lo Holdings LLC and seven to Harris Teeter Supermarkets, Inc.
A couple weeks earlier, JTM Corporation, which operates Piggly Wiggly supermarkets in the Columbus-Phenix City area, shuttered its second underperforming store in less than six months. The first, in south Columbus, Georgia, closed in February. Its second location on Highway 80 in the Ladonia Square shopping center in Alabama shuttered its doors in July. The owners blamed the two Piggly Wiggly store closures on stiff competition in the area, especially from newly constructed Walmart Superstores.
And in April, it was announced that two Piggly Wiggly supermarkets in Columbia, Tennessee were consolidating into one store. While owner Jody Shaw said he would like to keep both locations open, he noted, “People are busy, and it has changed the dynamic of the business. Some prefer to buy online and pick it up. I might be dead and gone before that completely takes off, but it is more and more of a factor.”
More Grocery Store Closures in 2017
A large number of grocery stores have either shuttered their doors or consolidated operations in 2017 in an effort to better compete in a fierce marketplace.
Falling revenue at several Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) locations have resulted in store closures. Indianapolis-based Marsh Supermarkets, Inc. filed for bankruptcy in May and was eventually liquidated; this resulted in nearly 100 store closures and the loss of thousands of jobs.
Ultra Foods, Inc. has shuttered stores and trimmed its headcount. Shop ‘n Save Inc has closed a small number of stores in 2017 due to declining foot traffic and sales. It could close a lot more in 2018, however, after an activist investor said it needed to sell 30% of its stores to improve shareholder value. There are still 41 Shop ‘n Save locations across the U.S., and a 30% cull would mean closing an additional 12 stores.
Tom Thumb permanently closed a location in the WestBend shopping center in Fort Worth, Texas less than one year after it opened. Lastly, Harris Teeter Supermarkets closed a location on High House Crossing Road in Cary, North Carolina on September 16. The grocery store employed 57 workers.
“Piggly Wiggly Closing,” The Cullman Tribune, November 27, 2017.
“About Us,” Piggly Wiggly, last accessed November 28, 2017.
“Mr. K’s Piggly Wiggly grocery store near Summerville to close,” The Post and Courier, September 27, 2017.
“Piggly Wiggly closing its West Beltline store and restaurant,” The State, July 13, 2017.
“Piggly Wiggly supermarket closes, employees moving to other stores,” Ledger-Enquirer, July 5, 2017.
“Columbia’s Piggly Wiggly stores to consolidate,” The Daily Herald, April 12, 2017.