Where Grocers Should Be Opening Stores

Gina Acosta
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North Port is the No. 1 growth city as three Florida markets top the list of 25 cities where U-Haul customers moved in 2020.

Grocery real estate teams scouting for new locations should be looking at the latest migration list from U-Haul.

The company analyzed U.S. migration trends during one of the more turbulent moving seasons in modern history.

North Port, Florida, an up-and-coming district in Sarasota County with easy access to the Gulf Coast and Interstate 75, leads the list of cities that saw more movers coming rather than going in 2020 a year defined by the coronavirus pandemic.

"People are packing up their U-Haul trucks and heading to North Port because it's an affordable place to live, and it's central to Fort Myers and Sarasota," said Dave Thompson, U-Haul Company of Western Florida president. "I'm not surprised North Port is the new No. 1 U-Haul growth city because the atmosphere is relaxed, and it's close to the beaches. Everyone wants to live in paradise. The North Port area is expanding. There are new shopping centers and restaurants everywhere you look. The Atlanta Braves baseball team just moved their spring training site to North Port. There's something for everyone here."

North Port is the No. 1 growth city as three Florida markets top the list of 25 cities where U-Haul customers moved in 2020.

Kissimmee, at the doorstep to world-famous theme parks, retains its No. 2 ranking on the list. Port St. Lucie gives Florida a sweep of the top three growth markets. Alabama's Auburn-Opelika corridor climbs to No. 4, while the Wisconsin capital of Madison the leading growth city of 2016 rounds out the top five.

Thirteen of the top 25 growth cities are in the Southeast, with five in Florida. Tennessee, the top U-Haul growth state of 2020, lands two cities on the list along with Alabama, California, Colorado, Georgia, Texas and Wisconsin.

Despite California's out-migration numbers that rank it last among growth states, the markets of Sacramento-Roseville and Redding made the growth cities list as popular destinations for movers aiming to stay in-state.

Growth cities are calculated by the net gain of one-way U-Haul trucks entering a city versus leaving that city in a calendar year. Migration trends data is compiled from more than 2 million one-way U-Haul truck customer transactions that occur annually. Neighboring cities in certain markets are packaged together for U-Haul migration purposes.

Arrivals of one-way U-Haul trucks into North Port jumped 40% while departures rose just 13% compared to the city's 2019 numbers. Arrivals accounted for 62.3% of all one-way U-Haul traffic in the North Port area.

Additional U.S. growth cities with substantial spikes in customer arrivals include Kissimmee (30%), Knoxville (23%), Tyler (21%), Ashville (28%) and Charleston (40%).

"We have an influx of customers moving to Kissimmee because the cost of living is relatively low," said Miguel Caminos, U-Haul Company of Orlando president. "Year-over-year population and median household income is growing 3% to 5% annually. Keep in mind this is a small city, not really a metro like neighboring Orlando. One of the major draws for most people considering a move here is all the activities and attractions."

While U-Haul migration trends do not correlate directly to population or economic growth, the company's growth data is an effective gauge of how well cities and states are attracting and maintaining residents.