In Charlotte, frugality rules the supermarket choice

For the first time, the Charlotte market's leading grocer by sales isn't a grocery store at all - at least, not exclusively. It's Walmart.

The addition of several Walmart supercenters in the area, combined with consumers' continued hunt to save money in the recession, combined to give Walmart a 29 percent share of the local grocery market in the third quarter of 2009, the most recent available.

That's up from 25.7 percent a year earlier, and way up from 16.2 percent in 2004.

Harris Teeter, the previous No. 1, ranked second, with 26.5 percent, down from 29 percent in 2008, according to market and consumer research firm the Nielsen Company. Food Lion remained third, with 19.7 percent.

The shift makes Charlotte the latest market to join a tide that has swept across much of the nation's grocery terrain during the last decade, with mainstream supermarkets losing share to discount stores and other nontraditional food sellers. Leading the charge has been Walmart, whose estimated U.S. supermarket sales are about equal to those generated by the next three largest U.S. food retailers, combined.

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