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Kroger to increase employee benefits

BY Marianne Wilson

Kroger is increasing benefits for its employees as retailers continue to feel the pressure of a tight job market.

The supermarket giant on Monday announced several employee initiatives, including an education assistance program, accelerated investments in store associate wages, and a more generous 401(k) benefit. It also is enhancing associate discount and support programs. Last week, Kroger announced that is looking to fill 11,000 positions in its supermarket division, including almost 2,000 management jobs.

Under the new education program, called Feed You Future, Kroger and its subsidiaries will now offer full-and part-time associates an employee education benefit of up to $3,500 annually ($21,000 over the course of employment) toward continuing education and development opportunities including a high school equivalency exam, professional certifications and advanced degrees. Kroger said expects to increase by five times its total annual investment in employee education.

As part of the initiative, Kroger is also introducing a new educational leave of absence that allows associates to take time off work to focus on approved studies, while maintaining a role with the family of companies and their seniority.

“We care about our nearly half a million associates’ growth and development, and we believe investing in education will support and encourage lifelong learning and reinforce our ‘come for a job, stay for a career’ opportunity culture,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO. “We believe that making education benefits available to more associates and at more generous levels than ever before is the best way to support their future.”

Kroger is also increasing the company match for its 401(k) program to 5%, up from the existing 4%. It is expanding its employee discount program for associate shopping in its stores, and investing $5 million more into its Helping Hands program, an internal fund to aid associates who are going through hard times.

In order to increase starting wages and overall wage rates in certain markets, Kroger is utilizing the benefits of the recent tax cut to accelerate some of the previously-announced, incremental $500 million investment in associate wages, training, and development during the next three years.

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a catalyst that is enabling us to accelerate investments in Restock Kroger, our plan to serve America through food inspiration and uplift,” said McMullen. “Sharing the benefits of tax reform with our associates and customers will create a more sustainable and stronger business model to support Restock Kroger and beyond. This approach is also consistent with living our purpose: to Feed the H

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Target’s Drive Up, same-day delivery service grows

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Two delivery programs will make it easier for more customers to make their Target runs — whether they shop online or in-store.

The discounter announced it is expanding “Drive Up” service, which allows guests to place orders via the Target app, then have their items brought out to their cars by a store team member. The service will now be available in nearly 270 stores in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina. This is the first expansion of Drive Up since it was launched as a pilot in the Minneapolis area last fall, according to “A Bullseye View,” a blog on Target’s website.

Here’s how it works: Customers select Drive Up as the fulfillment option when placing an order through the Target app. Target will notify shoppers within two hours that the order is ready. Customers click on the “I’m on the Way” button when they are headed to the store.

Once they arrive, customers park in a designated Drive Up spot, and a Target associate will bring the order to the car within two minutes.

The company plans to continue expanding Drive Up to 1,000 stores nationwide by the end of 2018 according to Target.

In addition, the discounter is expanding a service that lets customers shop select urban stores, and have their order delivered within two hours for a flat fee. Following last year’s successful pilot launch in four New York City stores, the service will now be available in nearly 60 Target stores in five major cities, including Boston, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., by the end of the month, according to “A Bullseye View,” a blog on Target’s website.

When checking out in store, customers alert the cashier they would like home delivery and choose their desired two-hour delivery window. They provide their address and leave items at the store. A dedicated driver will deliver the purchase to the shopper’s doorstep within the customer’s chosen delivery window.

The service fee is $7. Oversized purchases, such as furniture, are subject to an additional $25 handling fee, according to the blog.

“We’re using our network of more than 1,800 stores and our enhanced supply chain operations and digital technologies to roll out more convenient shopping options … nationwide,” the blog added.

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Walmart announces launch of redesigned website

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walmart is readying to launch its redesigned website, which will feature more personalization and specialty experiences.

The discount giant said its new website, which will launch in May, will offer “a cleaner and more modern digital shopping experience” that will be bolstered with features ranging from more personalized experiences to stronger content and photography.

Customers will notice changes as soon as they open the home page, which will showcase the top-selling items in a customer’s location. Customers will also be able to view their local store profile, including available services such as online grocery, order status, and Easy Reorder, which lets customers repurchase the items they buy most frequently in stores and online.

The new site will also offer specialty shopping experiences, such as Walmart’s digital home shopping experience, which streamlines how customers browse and purchase merchandise across the category. The site will also integrate the Lord & Taylor flagship online store that will offer premium fashion brands directly from the department store retailer.

Walmart plans to expand its digital specialty experiences into more categories later this year, according to the website.

The new site will also tout photography and content that showcases real-life moments. It will also transition away from its signature blue and white trim to an expanded color palette that brings more vibrancy and depth to the site, according to the company.

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