Grocery distributor SpartanNash and Western grocer Raley’s have hatched hiring plans to help handle increased customer demand as the United States begins locking down to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
SpartanNash late yesterday unveiled a program to hire displaced workers and students in its nine-state retail footprint and 14-state distribution network for temporary jobs. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based food wholesaler and retailer said the initiative comes in response to “unprecedented retail and distribution sales volume” trending at two to three times normal sales levels at some locations since the onset of the coronavirus.
“During this unprecedented time of growing consumer need and uncertainty, SpartanNash is on the frontlines ensuring our customers have access to the food, medicine and household goods they need,” Interim President and CEO Dennis Eidson said in a statement. “Our family of associates is working hard to keep our independent customers, military commissaries and our own retail stores’ shelves stocked with household essentials and to continue to serve as a trusted provider of food products.
“We recognize, in many of our rural communities, we are the sole grocery provider and tens of thousands of families and neighbors are relying on us,” he noted.
Qualified candidates can apply for immediate interviews and on-the-spot hiring at retail stores and distribution centers. SpartanNash said the positions could turn into permanent career opportunities.
Overall, the company fields a fleet of more than 800 tractors and 2,000 trailers from 18 distribution centers that deliver grocery products to over 150 corporate-owned retail stores in the Midwest and 2,000-plus independent retailers in all 50 states.
SpartanNash, one of the nation’s largest food distributors, operates more than 150 corporate owned retail stores, distributes to more than 2,000 independent retail locations in all 50 states, and is a leading distributor to US military commissaries around the world.
“As we continue to navigate the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, we remain committed to ensuring the well-being and safety of our family of associates, customers and communities and supporting health officials and government leaders to contain the virus,” added Eidson. “We have redoubled our sanitation and safety efforts and stepped up all of our operational policies and procedures in line with local and national government recommendations.”
West Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley’s said it’s looking at hiring hundreds more store associates and other employees to meet customers’ special needs during the coronavirus crisis.
“Raley’s recognizes the important role our stores play in serving our communities during these challenging times,” the supermarket chain said in a statement. “That’s why we’re seeking to immediately increase our workforce by several hundred team members to support store operations, including our e-commerce business. The new team members will assist our existing teams in our stores, keeping them running smoothly and helping us meet growing customer demands, both in-store and online. We recognize there are likely many displaced employees from other service sectors who can benefit from this immediate opportunity to help serve their community, and we encourage them to apply.”
Raley’s operates 129 stores in California and Nevada under the Raley’s, Bel Air Markets, Nob Hill Foods, Food Source and Market 5-ONE-5 banners.
In a video message, Raley’s President and CEO Keith Knopf outlined measures the grocery retailer is taking to address the impact of COVID-19. He also reassured customers – and consumers in general – that food and groceries will be readily available.
“Please know the food system in the United States is the most sophisticated and robust in the world,” Knopf said. “And amid rational demand, it will keep up. If we all normalize our buying behavior and resist the unnecessary need to stockpile, we will all have what we need.”
Meanwhile, Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage announced a $1 per hour raise for all hourly employees, known as “good4u Crew,” starting the pay period of March 23. The Lakewood, Colo.-based better-for-you grocer also said it will pay a discretionary bonus to all crew.
Natural Grocers, too, noted that it’s “actively hiring” temporary full-time stocking and cleaning positions at all 157 stores, located in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
“We are living and working in extraordinary times, and the news regarding the coronavirus pandemic is confusing, worrying and unfortunately driving uncertainty and fear. During these times, it is even more important that we support each other and acknowledge each other for being there for our communities and each other,” stated Heather Isely, executive vice president at Natural Grocers. “We greatly appreciate the hard and dedicated work that our teams have put in over the last weeks,” she added.
Other measures include up to two weeks of paid leave to all full- and part-time associates if diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed under mandatory quarantine by public health authorities, and additional pay replacement for up to another 12 weeks under the company’s short-term disability benefit if an employee isn’t able to return to work after the initial two weeks. All Natural Grocers locations have begun closing at 7:35 p.m. until further notice, so that staff can restock and thoroughly clean stores, the retailer said.
United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1167, representing grocery and drugstore workers in California’s Inland Empire region, pointed out the valuable service that retail associates are providing during the coronavirus situation.
“Our union’s members put themselves on the line every day to ensure we have safe, efficient and equitable access to food, medicine and essential goods,” according to Joe Duffle, president of UFCW Local 1167. “They do this in extremely stressful circumstances, with panicked shoppers needlessly stripping the shelves and acting rudely to each other as well as the employees.”
Supermarket and drugstore supply chains remain robust, and deliveries of products arrive on a daily basis, Duffle reported. “There’s no reason to panic and no reason to hoard,” he said. “There’ll be plenty for everyone if we all shop for the week ahead.”
Duffle also credited union employers for working with Local 1167 to protect the health of workers and shoppers. He cited recent efforts such as special store hours for seniors and vulnerable shoppers and reduced business hours for more thorough cleaning and restocking of merchandise.
“But more needs to be done,” Duffle added. “We need more breaks so workers can better clean their hands, better access to gloves and masks when they’re appropriate, and first-day sick leave to encourage workers to stay home at the first sign of not feeling well.”
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