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Bottom Dollar employees to receive severance as stores close

All 66 Bottom Dollar Food locations will close Jan. 15 and every employee will be offered severance, the company announced. Eligible employees will also receive career transition services.

“We want to thank our associates, customers and communities for their support over the past four years,” Gene Faller, VP of retail operations for Bottom Dollar Food.

Delhaize Group announced the sale of Bottom Dollars stores and associated lease liabilities in the greater Philadelphia and great Pittsburgh markets to Aldi in November. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2015. Aldi has not announced plans for the locations, although it will likely reopen most of the stores under its own banner later this year.


Aldi’s purchase closes book on Bottom Dollar

Shoppers react to Bottom Dollar news

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Price access helps Safeway employees cut health costs

Safeway employees with access to reference-based pricing for health care laboratory services spent less for the services than employees without the same information, according to a joint study conducted by Safeway and Cigna Corp.

With access to an online shopping tool that showed information about the cost, location and type of lab services in their geographic area using a reference-based pricing tool, Safeway employees were able to find lower costs for lab services than another group without the reference-based pricing benefit, the study found.

Dr. Kent L. Bradley, SVP and chief medical officer for Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway, said, “Thoughtful application of reference pricing warrants consideration as a mechanism to improve value in health care and help individuals reduce their costs for certain services.”

Reference-based pricing is a benefit design that sets a maximum contribution, or reference price, from a health plan to pay for a particular service — in this case lab services. According to Cigna, Bloomfield, Conn., some employers see this type of benefit design as a way to incentivize employees to consider the price of services when making health care decisions; employees also save money when they choose services at or below a reference price, Cigna noted.

According to Jackie Aube, Cigna’s VP for product, “The goal of reference-based pricing is to help individuals become smarter health care consumers by giving them the opportunity to choose health care services at the best price without compromising quality. The education and online tools that health plans and employers offer can help individuals make more informed decisions.”

The study involved two groups of employees enrolled in a Cigna health plan — one comprised of Safeway employees with access to reference-based pricing benefits for lab services, the other comprised of employees at various companies who worked in the same area and received the same lab services as Safeway employees but did not have the same benefit.

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Do you pamper your customers and neglect your employees?

We were walking through a beautiful new supermarket with one of our clients a few weeks back. As in most new markets we see, it was a gleaming palace, complete with great customer amenities and the latest in new departments and offers. It was physically beautiful from a design standpoint … until we went into the back room, where the “new” abruptly stopped. Cement floors, unfinished walls, spartan break rooms with folding tables and chairs and communications that were decidedly legal — driven by rules and regulations, not motivation.

By contrast, we had a chance to take a behind the scenes tour at Disney World recently. As most know, Disney is renowned for delivering a great customer experience. They refer to their guest experience as The Show, with cast members and guests. Backstage is treated with the same care as on-stage, with some of the most immaculate stock rooms we’ve ever seen. There were numerous associate programs being trained and promoted in the back of the house, including creating “Five Star Stories,” along with constant reminders on product knowledge, white glove care and creating engagements with the guest.

Backstage was viewed as an opportunity for internal branding and Disney states that:

 “Our brand is our cast and our cast is our magic.”

Most retailers will state that their customers are their most important focus. But, what about your people who must deliver on that promise? What cues do you send to your people on how important they are? How do you show them you care? What kind of training programs do you have that focus on guest engagement? Product knowledge? Customer service? Their own advancement?

A successful business really needs to be thought about from the inside out. The only way to deliver great customer service is to have great programs for your own people. It’s no secret that the best service experiences in retail (Publix, Wegmans, Container Store, Whole Foods, REI, Nordstrom, etc.) also routinely show up as The Best Places to Work.

How can we possibly expect to have our associates take care of customers if we don’t take care of our associates?

Are you paying as much attention to your people as you do to your customers? What programs do you have in place for your associates?

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Kroger sets hiring goal of 20,000 employees

Kroger Co. said Friday it plans to hire approximately 20,000 employees for permanent positions at its supermarket divisions.

The Cincinnati-based company did not indicate a timeframe for filling those positions.

“Kroger’s growth trajectory creates job opportunities for current and future employees. Right now our stores across the country have openings for bright, hard-working associates who are passionate about making a difference for customers every day,” said HR SVP Katy Barclay.

Kroger said those interested in applying for positions should go to

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Price Chopper, Whole Foods employees accept Ice Bucket Challenge

Supermarket executives and employees have not been immune to the Ice Bucket Challenge, which asks participants to dunk themselves with ice water and post social media videos in order to raise money and awareness for the ALS Association.

Price Chopper’s Jerry Golub, president and CEO, and David Golub, SVP e-commerce and government relations, took the challenge in honor of their father, Lewis, who passed away from ALS five years ago.

Employees of various Whole Foods locations have been passing on the challenge to associates at other stores. One employee at a store in West Hartford, Conn., took the challenge to a new level by placing herself in the bucket.

Employees at the Whole Foods in Fairfield, Conn., responded with a line-up of nine participants.

The store manager of a Mrs. Green’s in West Windsor, N.J., also accepted the challenge, which was posed by one of his employees.

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Demoulas Employees Question Latest Moves at Market Basket

TEWKSBURY, Mass. — A board-led attempt to cool anxieties at Market Basket stores was met skeptically by employees last week, who remained concerned over potential cuts in profit sharing and the removal of the chain’s popular chief executive officer, Arthur T. Demoulas. In a memo to employees last week, three newly elected independent directors of Demoulas Supermarkets said they have “moved thoughtfully” to improve corporate governance at the retailer, but were …

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J&J Produce hires new employees to accommodate recent growth and expansion

J&J Produce, which specializes in growing cucumbers, Bell peppers, squash, tomatoes and eggplant, has recently hired several new employees in the areas of operations, sales and food safety. The additions will help the company as it continues to grow and expand to a national platform.

David Beecher joined J&J as its new vice president of operations. He will be responsible for facility operations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Arizona and the Dominican Republic. Over the past 13 years, Beecher has gained experience in the produce industry by working for Bland Farms, Rosemont Farms and IFCO Systems.

“J&J is a well-established company with a diversified customer base, in both the foodservice and retail divisions,” Beecher said in a press release. “They have a strong management team and private-equity partner that are both in support of the national growth opportunities. I am very excited about helping the company continue to implement these best practices.”

Mike Bentel, new vice president of food safety and responsibility, has more than 20 years of experience at NSF International, Naturipe Farms and Walmart. His experience includes certifications in ISO 22000, HACCP, GAP and active industry roles with the United Fresh, PMA and FDA on food-safety and technology issues.  

“While J&J has always been a proactive leader in food safety, Mike will assist in taking us to the next level as we continue to develop our national sales plan with international sourcing to compliment our domestic production,” Brian Rayfield, vice president of business development and marketing, said in the release.

As part of the company’s regional expansion plans, Brian Helms has been hired as assistant division manager to help with the day-to-day management of the White Pine, TN, facility. Helms’ previous experience with regional and national retail and foodservice companies provides a long history of experience in produce.  

“J&J was immediately the first company I thought of when I made the decision to move out of distribution and into the grower-packer side of the business,” he said. “The chance to be apart of the J&J team and their continuing growth is truly exciting.”

New to the sales and marketing department is industry veteran Chris Paul, who has experience in various positions, ranging from quality control to purchasing and sales.  According to Paul, “This is a great opportunity to sell and market all varieties of produce from a well-respected company focused on quality.” He will head up the newly opened Midwest office based in New Glarus, WI. 

“This is an exciting time to be a part of J&J Produce,” said Rayfield.  “Aggressive business goals and capital expansions are creating new pathways for business growth to meet the needs of new and existing companies and talented people in every part of our business make that possible.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines