More Big Boxes Heading to Mid-Michigan

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In the not-too-distant future, the sounds of front-end loaders along Old 27 just north of Lansing will be replaced by cash registers.

"We do intend to build a store in DeWitt next year," said Stacie Behler, vice president of communications for Meijer.

It's part of an aggressive growth strategy for the Grand Rapids-based retailer. Pending approval of a special use permit, another new store is likely coming to Bath Township, just west of the intersection of Saginaw Highway and Marsh Road.

"It's about six miles away," Behler said.

That may seem a bit close for two stores, but Behler says the retailer seems confident it'll have the customers to fill it.

"Our research would reflect that there are enough customers. It's been successful in the Detroit market."

Customers like Linda Johns reflect that strategy. She plans to shop at the DeWitt Township store once it's open.

"It's easier to get here than to go over, through all the stuff over at Lake Lansing," Johns said.

Grocery industry analyst David Livingston of DJL Research says the close proximity makes sense for Meijer, given that some of their Lansing-area stores are among their most successful.

In fact, Livingston says, the Okemos store just down Marsh Road from the proposed Bath Township is so busy, another location might help relieve the pressure.

Citing the lack of strong competition from Wal-Mart Supercenters in the immediate area, Livingston added: "I think they probably found one of the few opportunities they have."

Just a few busy highway lanes away from that new DeWitt Township location is an L&L Food Center. Some customers there say they'll remain loyal. Others say loyalty won't be directing their decisions.

"Prices. Convenience," Johns said.

For its part, Meijer says it's not purposefully targeting smaller stores like L&L.

"There's plenty of market to go around," Behler said.

Still, the new Meijer in Grand Ledge was built near a Felpausch.

Further north along Old 27, Wal-Mart has one of its Supercenters, a growing indicator of the competition for food dollars among local, statewide and national retailers.

"It's just been a strong market. And we've developed outside of the Lansing-area too, Mason, Owosso, Charlotte because we see the Lansing market continuing to grow and expand," Behler said.

A sign Mid-Michigan is likely to see more new Meijer stores in the future.