Grocery Store Wars on the Outer Banks

Grocery Store PublixNow that Publix has entered the Outer Banks supermarketer mix it seems as though the local Grocery Store Wars are kicking into high gear. And with German discount supermarket chain Lidl planning on opening where the now closed Mike Kellys Outer Banks Tavern was, well, the competition is becoming even more intense.

So what’s happening?

Hard statistics are difficult to come by but one supermarket for approximately every 8500 people seems to be about the national average. With a permanent population of a little over 40,000 between Ocracoke and Carova, reasonably the Outer Banks would have five stores, although it’s so scattered, maybe six. By our count there are 15 supermarkets in the area and when Lidl enters the mix, they’ll be 16.

To answer the “what’s happening”question in a word—Summertime. Actually it’s visitors in general, but summertime is the key.

During the summer the population swells by 300,000-350,000 every week, maybe more. No one is sitting at the bridges with a clicker counting passengers.

The Outer Banks is a family destination and most of those visitors are spending a week or two in our vacation homes, and it is a rare family that brings groceries with them. That is why supermarkets are packed with shoppers on Saturdays and Sundays—and carts are creaking under the weight of the groceries. It’s also why locals, if they have to shop on the weekend during the summer, do so as early in the morning as possible.

Making the Outer Banks even more attractive to supermarket retailers, the Outer Banks economy is healthy and growing.

One of the best indicators of that are the summary of gross occupancy tax collected in Dare County. The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau posts records of collections over the past 14 years and what the numbers show is steady, sometimes, strong growth in occupancy collections.

It is raw data, so there has to be some caution in applying the numbers. Although more visitors are the most important part of an increase in collections, weekly rental rates are also a factor. Nonetheless, what the number reveal are remarkable. Over the 14 year period from 2004 to 2017 occupancy tax collections have increased by 83.9%, far outstripping the rate of inflation.

That sustained growth is perhaps the most significant reason that supermarkets chains see the Outer Banks as a good investment.

And we should add, it’s why it’s a good investment for property owners as well.

We’ve compiled a list of Outer Banks supermarkets. For this list, we’re only including locations north of Oregon Inlet. Hatteras Island does have a Food Lion in Avon and Connor’s Supermarket in Buxton, which is a family owned business.

We are incorporating a little bit of information about each of the stores, but are not judging any way if the stores are good bad or indifferent. Stores that are opened 24 hours are indicated; for all others, hours vary seasonally.

Food Lion

The most prevalent supermarket on the Outer Banks, Food Lion has built its reputation on their focus on good quality, excellent selection and reasonable prices. The stores are always well-maintained.

Outer Banks Mall
5200 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head
(252) 441-4118
Open 24 hours

Food Lion Plaza
2515 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head
(252) 449-8852
Open 24 Hours

Dare Center
1720 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills
(252) 449-8852

The Marketplace
5543 N Croatan Hwy, Southern Shores
(252) 261-3205
Open 24 hours

Monterey Plaza
805 Ocean Trail, Corolla
(252) 453-4544
Open 24 hours

Harris Teeter

Considered a bit more upscale than Food Lion. Deli and meat departments very good. Expect consistently good customer service. Wine and beer selection very good.

Kill Devil Hills Shopping Center
2012 S Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills
(252) 449-9191
Open 24 hours

Shoreside Center
5400 N. Croatan Hwy, Kitty Hawk
(252) 261-2220
Open 24 hours

The Shops at the Currituck Club
601 Currituck Clubhouse Dr, Corolla
(252) 453-0153

Walmart

One stop shopping—clothes, bathing suits, beach needs, food and groceries. Very good prices. Produce area well-maintained. Well-stocked with some areas offering excellent selection.

Shoreside Center
5400 N. Croatan Hwy, Kitty Hawk
(252) 261-6011
Open 24 hours

Kmart

A bit of a hybrid—a much broader selection of groceries than a convenience store, but does not have nearly the selection of the other supermarkets. Does not have a deli or in in store meat department.

Kmart Shopping Plaza
901 North Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hlls
(252) 441-1935

Publix

The newest store in the Outer Banks mix. Very good selection of prepared meals. Deli meat and bakery departments very good. Wine selection extensive. Has built a well-deserved reputation for excellent customer service.

Publix Super Market at First Flight Square
1530 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills
(252) 255-5006

The Fresh Market

The smallest of the Outer Banks supermarkets. The meat department is excellent and wine selection best of any supermarket on the Outer Banks. Good selection of prepared food and artisan cheese. Well-maintained produce department.

Outer Banks Mall
5000 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head
(252) 255-5022

Food-A-Rama

Manteo’s only supermarket. Family owned and very traditional in layout. Some very good values. Selection is good if not outstanding, although the meat department has built a reputation for quality. Expect friendly service with a local flair.

Food-A-Rama
226 US-64, Manteo
(252) 473-2924