QUINCY, Mass. — Stop & Shop here is planning to make some of its floral and seafood departments into self-service models to cut back costs, but despite recent media reports, there are no confirmed numbers on how many departments or employees this decision will affect or when these changes will happen.
“For Stop & Shop to provide customers with freshness at affordable prices, some of our seafood and floral departments will be based on a self-serve model,” Robert Keane, spokesman for Stop & Shop, told SN.
Keane said he believes that given the advances in the way that self-service and case-ready products are supplied, the change will provide fresher product for consumers.
“Because of these changes, we're going to be able to provide them with a more consistent and relevant variety that's going to be readily available. We are actually thinking that our customers are going to notice that the products are fresher than before,” he said.
However, Keane denied recent published reports that 55 floral and 155 seafood departments will be closed and that nearly 1,000 employees will eventually lose their jobs.
Brian Petronella, president of the Westport, Conn.-based Local 371 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, agreed that those numbers sounded inaccurate.
“I would characterize it as being accurate that some of the seafood departments and some of the florist departments are being turned into self-service departments, which means that there will not be people that are manning those positions,” Petronella told SN.
“There will be some reduction in the workforce, but nothing near 1,000 people.”
In an environment where retailers must compete on either service or price, however, Petronella questioned the wisdom of any major staff cuts.
“I believe it's a mistake to reduce personnel within the various departments,” he said.
“Stop & Shop should continue to be a provider of services, and by cutting back on the workforce … they're reducing service to the customers, and I don't think it's right.”
Last week, Local 371 representatives met with Stop & Shop to discuss the elimination of seafood personnel.
“It does affect some of our people, but what I've been told is that they are going to be placed elsewhere within the store,” Petronella said.
Petronella also told SN that there is language in the contracts of Local 328 and Local 1445 members in the Boston and Rhode Island areas that will protect meatcutters from layoffs during the life of their current agreements. Stop & Shop and 40,000 of its unionized workers throughout New England recently reached an agreement on a three-year labor contract, avoiding a potential strike.
“In my local, Local 371, the company agreed to give us some language which would, in the event of a layoff of meatcutters, protect their pensions and bridge their health insurance needs, so there is language that's been negotiated, but nothing's been told to us that there's going to be layoffs within the meat departments,” he said.
While Petronella said he believes that all of this is about cutting labor costs, Keane said that the ability to offer consumers convenience and freshness is also a large factor.
“There is a matter of cost; there's also a matter of, we feel that our customers are going to find these departments to be convenient — these products will now be readily available,” he said.
“This is done in many supermarkets, and to be able to continue to give them the freshness and quality that they want at good prices, we think this is necessary.”