A grocery store on every corner on the Grand Strand, and more on the way

A handful of grocery stores that are located along the Grand Strand
A handful of grocery stores that are located along the Grand Strand

In some neighborhoods along the Grand Strand it seems like there is a grocery store on every corner. And there’s even more under construction.

With a growing number of stores in the area, is there a large enough demand to sustain the ongoing construction?

According to the Chamber of Commerce, the rising population and increases in tourism say yes.

Over the past decade, the population has grown about 3 percent per year, according to Jim Wright, business intelligence officer with the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce. This trend is expected to continue for at least another few years.

Within the past two years, the number of tourists has increased by about 4 percent.

“Construction of a new grocery center will take six to nine months,” Mark Mitchell, a professor of marketing at Coastal Carolina University, said in an email. “So, after the store is built, the demand is actually greater than at the time of original construction.”

In order to account for an increase in population many stores use what is known as a proprietary model, which helps to compare the size of a community and the demand to the number of stores to meet what the area can support.

Representatives from Food Lion and Lowes Foods would not comment on how they use the proprietary model along the Grand Strand, but they did say that it was a resource that was used to figure out how many stores to build in the area.

“In the United States, we tend to see about 25-square-feet of retail space per capita [per person],” Mitchell wrote in an email. “Given that retailers in Myrtle Beach serve both residents (who are factored into ‘per capita’ figures) and visitors (who are NOT factored into ‘per capita’ figures), we tend to run about twice (or double) the national average in per capita figures. If we were only serving residents (and not visitors), the Grand Strand would not [have] the rich mix of retailers (and diversity among them).”

With a high number of grocery stores, however, the competition among the stores increases.

“The rising tide (more residents and more visits) does lift all ships,” Mitchell said. “It increases the level of grocery retailers. Then, retailers compete to attract consumers to their retail stores, concepts and services.”

For some residents, however, the number of grocery stores is not a problem. Rather, the problem is the lack of specialty stores.

For writer Pam Watson, who heads the website LoveMyrtleBeach.net, the amount of grocery stores along the Grand Strand are necessary for the population.

“With more people coming we need more places to shop,” Watson said. “We need more variety. Not all people like the same stores. Even with all of the influx, I think there’s still room for all of the specialty places.”

“On a personal note I would like to see something like a Whole Foods,” Watson said. “A lot of locals would like to see Trader Joe’s.”

However, despite the high number of grocery stores along the Grand Strand there are areas, such as The Market Common, that do not have a grocery store.

The Market Common, designed to be a walking community, was originally built with a Piggly Wiggly, which closed in late September.

The 40,000-square-foot building now sits empty, forcing residents of The Market Common to drive to a grocery store such as Walmart Neighborhood Market, located along Farrow Parkway.

However, Market Common spokeswoman Heather Gray, did say that plans were in the works to bring a new store to the location. She declined to comment on what type of store would come to the now vacant building, or when it would come to the area.

This being said, there are grocery stores along the Grand Strand that have recently closed, such as Bi-Lo in Murrells Inlet.

“Inevitably, there will be some stores that will not perform as well as others,” Mitchell said. “Changes in traffic patterns may make their locations less desirable. Or, they may fail to update and consumers may see their stores as out-of-date. But, it can be argued that this creates an opportunity to re-purpose that retail space for others.”

Megan Tomasic: 843-626-0343, @MeganTomasic