Jason Sandford is founder of Ashvegas.com. Jason grew up in Asheville and is a 20-year veteran journalist.
Over the past couple of months, I've heard consistent chatter that something is going on with Ingles. One hot rumor has it that Publix is buying Ingles. Another is simply that Ingles is for sale. A change in ownership would be a significant change for a home-grown company that's done well in a competitive industry.
I ran the Publix rumor by a couple of knowledgable folks who pointed out that the company - which recently opened its first North Carolina store in Charlotte and is building a store in south Asheville - doesn't typically do big acquisitions. (The big acquisition that did go down at the start of the year was Kroger acquiring Harris Teeter.) Another source flat out said there's no way Publix is buying Ingles.
Ingles, as a rule, is tight-lipped and doesn't talk about such matters. (The company is publicly traded, but controlled by the Ingle family.) Could it be for sale? Some observers note that it's now been three years since founder Robert Ingle died, and the timing might be right for a change. Bobby Ingle Jr. took the helm as CEO following his father's death, with other long-time members of the company's leadership team remaining in place.
Robert Ingle opened his first grocery store in Asheville in 1963. The company is based in Black Mountain, and it now operates about 200 stores in six Southeastern states. It has annual sales of nearly $4 billion, according to a company profile.
Early on, Ingle established strategies that have served the company well. Check out their company profile .
"Early on, Ingles implemented a successful strategy of real estate investment in the communities it served, often owning the real estate on which its stores are located. Ingles today owns two-thirds of the real estate on which it operates. He cut prices, extended store hours to include Sundays and holidays, advertised specials, expanded the supermarket, set up mass merchandise displays, offered games, stamps and other promotional items and generally, ran what he called "a circus" in order to get people in the door."
Today, the grocery store has been successful by renovating stores, highlighting locally sourced brands and adding gas stations to many store locations.
Competition remains stiff, though. As noted above, Publix is aggressively moving into the North Carolina market. In Asheville, Whole Foods is building big new store on Tunnel Road, while smaller "boutique" stores like Trader Joe's and Katuah Market have opened in just the past year. Don't forget that Walmart, Sam's Club, Target and Aldi also add to the competitive pressure.