As shelter-in-place orders and business closures impose consequential shrinkage of the national and state economies, one retail sector thrives through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic — supermarkets. One of the most essential of essential services, grocery stores have experienced high demand since stay-at-home rules were imposed.
Although initially stores and chains were hard-pressed to keep up with the intensity of demand for basic foodstuffs and other household necessities – with hoarding buyers leaving empty shelves – most have since successfully met the challenge. Yet this success comes with a price: more personnel must be hired to maintain needed inventories and service the customers.
The Kroger Company’s Mid-Atlantic stores are a perfect case in point.
Stores and Supply Chains
In ordinary times, food supply chains in the U.S. keep retail shelves relatively well-provided for, even accounting for significant purchasing surges during the year-end holidays or summer barbeque season. The reasons include the chain’s flexibility and a usual surplus of items from which it can draw.
It is pliable due to the urgency of getting perishable foods into and out of the markets in a timely manner whereas non-perishables can be warehoused for much longer periods.
In addition, supplies are replenished from sources around the U.S. and the world over. For most adults, few can remember a time when what they wanted was consistently unavailable.
Enter the coronavirus and the system gets a shock. There is a spike in purchases because people fear leaving their houses and getting exposed. Toilet paper sells out instantly along with napkins, disinfectant, hand sanitizers and detergent.
Milk and dairy disappear, too, because the processors ordinarily package for restaurants as well as retail – the latter now getting overwhelmed while the former close up. People are living at home full-time and the shopping reflects this new normal. Bread, meats and other staples also experience sporadic absences from supermarket shelves and counters.
All the while, farmers are forced to dump milk and euthanize livestock because of COVID-19 at processing facilities. Yet the innate resiliency of the supply chain reasserts itself and merchandise becomes more available.
The new normal is expected to last indefinitely. The old normal may never return. Retail food chains must adapt the same resilience as their supply chains. The Kroger Co. gets this, and is procuring sufficient personnel to make it happen.
About Kroger Co.
In business for 137 years, the Kroger Co. evolved from a single, modest store in downtown Cincinnati to become a nearly 2,800-store network operating in 35 states. The founder, Barney Kroger, adopted the simple motto: “Be particular. Never sell anything you would not want yourself.” This commonsense approach is reflected by the diversity and innovation of Kroger store layouts and inventories.
At the dawn of the 20th century, for example, these were the first markets to establish in-store bakeries; previously grocers would purchase from bakers and re-sell to customers. In fact, the sale of prepared foods at the grocery store can be traced to Kroger.
This kind of institutional self-reliance is manifest in the 35 food processing/synthesizing facilities operating under the Kroger brand. Moreover, Kroger’s customer orientation shows up in businesses as diverse as pharmacies, jewelers, retail clinics and credit cards. Few names are as well-known and ubiquitous throughout the Mid-Atlantic region as Kroger.
Expanding the Workforce
Given the company’s expansive ventures as well as the labor market changes brought on by the pandemic, Kroger announced in early June the augmentation of its workforce by 25 percent. This starts with over 5,000 new associates in the Mid-Atlantic.
According to Krogerexperiencee.com, these fresh personnel – many of whom were laid off from previous positions because of coronavirus restrictions – will fill positions in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia and Tennessee. Those filled and open include management, full-time and part-time roles in many departments, such as:
- Night Crew
Due to the urgency of need, the company has accelerated the hiring time-frame to fall within 72 hours of application. Over 100,000 employees are currently working for Kroger Co.