California’s grocery industry is one of the most competitive in the nation and newcomer Haggen Inc., which opened 83 California supermarkets including this one in Torrance earlier this year, appears to be losing traction.

By Kevin Smith, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Posted: 07/24/15 – 5:34 PM PDT |

California’s grocery industry is among the most competitive in the nation and newcomer Haggen Inc., which opened 83 California supermarkets earlier this year, is rapidly finding that out.

The Bellingham, Wash.-based grocer has already laid off workers and cut employee hours and union officials fear more cuts could be coming.

Kathy Finn, director of collective bargaining for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 770, said the layoffs and reduced hours have affected many of the 2,000 Haggen employees scattered throughout Los Angeles, Kern, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, including about 800 workers represented by her union.

“It’s shocking … I don’t understand it,” she said. “We met with them in advance before the stores opened and they said they were committed to making this a success. But it seems to me that you wouldn’t just try it for six months and then pull up the anchor.”

Finn suspects the cutbacks may not be over.

“We’re hearing that there will be some more changes but we’re not sure what will happen,” she said.

Volume at the stores has fallen 20 to 30 percent, according to industry sources who spoke with Supermarket News.

Bill Shaner, CEO of Haggen’s Pacific Southwest division, could not be reached for comment this week. But he did release a statement addressing the cutbacks.

“As we introduce Haggen throughout Southern California, Arizona and Nevada, our challenge is to establish and grow the brand in competitive new markets,” he said. “To ensure we’re operating as efficiently as possible, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily cut back on staffing at our stores, with specific reductions varying by store.”

Haggen values the contributions employees have made, Shaner said, adding that the grocery chain is committed to “treating all employees respectfully and professionally” through the transition.

“Our focus moving forward is to continue to bring the complete Haggen experience to our stores — offering fresh, locally sourced products alongside everyday big brands — and establishing ourselves in the competitive grocery space,” he said.

Shaner has indicated that the company plans to restore the reduced hours as Haggen captures more market share in the region.

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