Extreme-value retailer Lidl has laid off hundreds of employees at its U.S. headquarters in Arlington, Va., reportedly informing those affected via email. No store-level workers were let go, according to the company.
When contacted by Progressive Grocer, a Lidl US spokeswoman said: “While we remain committed to the long-term success of Lidl US and look forward to continuing our expansion along the East Coast, we are continually evaluating our operations to ensure we are supporting our stores effectively. As part of this process, we have made the difficult decision at this time to eliminate approximately 200 roles across the company, which took place this week.”
The spokeswoman added that all affected employees would receive severance pay as well as career transition services, COBRA health care continuation coverage, and the payout of accrued but unused vacation.
The grocer has traveled a somewhat bumpy road in the United States since opening its first store in this country in 2017. It struggled to catch on with consumers initially and has experienced various shakeups in its leadership, most recently when Michal Laguionek, a longtime Lidl executive, succeeded Johannes Fieber as Lidl US president and CEO in 2021. In 2018, Fieber had replaced Brendan Proctor, who had led the division since 2015, when it first established its U.S. headquarters. Additionally, Lidl US Chairman Roman Heini abruptly resigned in 2020 after little more than a year, citing personal reasons.
Earlier this week, Lidl confirmed that it recently bought more than 70 acres in Bucks County, Pa., for a future warehouse at the site of the Keystone Trade Center. Company spokeswoman Jessica Shangle didn’t give specifics about the sale — pegged to be close to $145 million — but did note that a project is in the works. “We are still in the early planning phase for the site and will have more to share over the coming months,” she noted.
Lidl acquired the property from NorthPoint Development, which owns the 1,800-acre campus on which the warehouse will sit. According to local media, the campus will eventually include more than 20 buildings.
Lidl currently operates several stores in Pennsylvania, including locations in Philadelphia, Lancaster and Reading. The construction of a warehouse comes as Lidl is set to build out a store in the town of Warminster in Bucks County. In January, Lidl held a grand opening for its newest 36,000-square-foot location on New York's Long Island.
Neckarsulm, Germany-basedLidloperates around 11,550 stores and is active in 32 countries, employing more than 341,000 employees globally. The grocer runs about 170 stores in nine East Coast states. Lidl US is No. 89 on the PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.
Retailers Accelerating Investments in E-Comm Search
As those who both buy and sell products online know all too well, the search tool is crucial in the e-commerce experience. A new report on e-comm trends shows that retailers are increasingly investing in search optimization as they work to provide more personalized product information to consumers.
The report, released by AI-first search and discovery platform Algolia and compiled with U.K.-based Coleman Parkes Research, shows that 42% of retailers have increased their investment into search over the past year. At the same time, however, almost half (47%) of retailers haven’t fully invested in the capability.
Those who have sought to improve their search functionality affirm that discovery is a key growth catalyst. More than half of retailers said that an increase in revenue was a driver for search implementation, and 71% who have implemented sophisticated search capabilities reported that search has helped drive revenue.
Many retailers recognize that search is crucial to the important deliverable of personalization in today’s competitive e-comm environment. The survey found that personalized shopping profiles are the most common offer, followed by subscription to email messaging programs in exchange for a more personalized experience.
Drilling down a bit more, 73% of retailers build search in-house or work with a third party to do so. Just over a fourth (27%) have added off-the-shelf search SaaS offerings. Only 1% said that they don’t face any challenges related to search development.
“Search is a powerful tool that unlocks conversion opportunities, leads to repeat business, and drives loyalty, ultimately increasing revenue,” said Piyush Patel, chief strategic business development officer at San Francisco-based Algolia, adding that those who have underinvested or not invested in search are missing an opportunity to improve the customer experience and drive increased revenue.
The full “Ecommerce Site Search Trends 2023” report, based on insights from 900 technical and business decision-makers at retailers with global revenues of more than $100 million, is available online.
Sprouts stores are, well, sprouting up in different markets around the United States. The retailer, which raised its full-year outlook in November following a solid third quarter, is in hiring mode for locations on opposite sides of the country, and at earlier stages of rolling out other new stores.
Hiring events are taking place virtually and online in March for a new Sprouts store at 8431 Sudley Road in Manassas, Va. The store is set to open on May 12 with a planned staff of 90 full- and part-time associates.
Likewise, Sprouts is holding similar hiring events next month ahead of another opening at 43668 15th Street in Lancaster, Calif. Welcoming shoppers on April 12, the Lancaster store is aiming for 100 full- and part-time employees.
As the grocer readies those latest outposts, it’s also planning to open a site in San Jose, Calif., in the second quarter of this year and another location in Pittsburg, Calif., sometime in 2024. Next up: the unveiling of a store in Merced, Calif., on March 24.
The flurry of store openings is in line with Sprouts’ ambitious growth plans. In the company’s last earnings call, CEO Jack Sinclair noted that 16 new stores opened in fiscal 2022 and that Sprouts expects to open at least 30 new stores in fiscal 2023. “We’ve got a solid pipeline of stores well beyond the number that we need for this year,” Sinclair said. “And I know this year, we only got to 16. But ... we understand much better as we go into 2023 and 2024 than we did in going into 2022, with all the volatility that was going on in supply chain. So all other things being equal, we’re feeling good about that number of 30 stores.”
Sprouts will report its fourth quarter and fiscal year financial results on March 2.
The ShopRite of Canton recently hired Registered Dietitian Hannah Waxler to lead the Connecticut store’s health-and-wellness outreach to customers.
“We are excited to have Hannah join our team,” said Chuck Joseph, president of Joseph Family Markets, which operates the ShopRite of Canton. “Her addition continues more than 12 years of serving the community through our wellness program, which includes in-store nutritional counseling, events and recipe demonstrations.”
In her new role, Waxler will provide free one-on-one nutrition counseling, develop recipes featuring healthy alternatives, offer guidance on proper nutrition for specific health conditions and dietary needs, and tour the aisles with shoppers to help them better understand food labels. Additionally, Waxler will host online and in-store classes on healthy eating for consumers of all ages.
Waxler earned her bachelor of science degree in nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut. She also completed a dietetic internship and her master of science in health promotion sciences.
Since 2006, ShopRite’s registered dietitians have provided meal suggestions and substitutes for various lifestyles to support customers’ personal wellness. Dietitian coaching is available at select stores, and Well Everyday’s virtual presence encompasses cooking classes, private consultations, a chat feature and social media outreach.
Keasbey, N.J.-basedWakefern comprises more than 40 members that independently own and operate 360-plus supermarkets under theShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace, The Fresh Grocer, Dearborn Market, Gourmet Garage and Fairway Market banners in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Together with its member companies, Wakefern employs nearly 80,000 people. The company is No. 25 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 listing of thetop food and consumables retailers in North America.
There are some new leaders in the mix at bakery manufacturer and ingredient distributor Dawn Foods. The Jackson, Mich.-based company has promoted Becky Loveland to VP of North America strategy and business planning and rehired Elena Taylor as VP of national accounts. Both Loveland and Taylor will report to John Schmitz, the company’s president.
Loveland moves up from her most recent role as senior director of marketing. A 13-year company employee, she will take on a new role to plan and execute strategic initiatives for driving sales and operating income. She will also focus on the exploration and development of transformation efforts that lead to new opportunities.
“For over 10 years, Becky has played significant roles in strategic planning that push Dawn forward and is instrumental to our growth and transformation here at Dawn,” said Schmitz. “To help us continue that transformation and growth, Becky will implement and execute on the business strategy that is so critical for Dawn to achieve to continue being the leader in bakery ingredients.”
Meanwhile, Taylor has returned to Dawn, where she was a member of the company’s marketing team from 2016 to 2021. In her last position at Dawn, she was senior sales director of national accounts as the lead for Walmart. Now, as VP of national accounts, she will spearhead long- and short-term sales strategies to build relationships with executive-level decision-makers and drive customer development and retention.
“We are honored to have Elena’s leadership back at Dawn, where she is delivering crucial growth for our key and national accounts team,” noted Schmitz. “She will continue to uncover new business opportunities, strategies and practices through her work leading our national accounts. I appreciate her counsel and expertise and look forward to seeing her continue to drive our organization forward.”
Tops Mass Shooter Gets Life in Prison
The 19-year-old gunman who killed 10 people last May in a racially motivated mass shooting at a Tops Markets store in Buffalo, N.Y., was sentenced to life in prison without parole at a court hearing this week, according to CNN and other published reports. Payton Gendron, who pleaded guilty last November to one count of domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate, 10 counts of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and a weapons possession charge for the mass shooting expressed remorse for his actions.
At the hearing, several victims’ family members spoke about how the mass shooting had affected their lives. A man identified as a family member of one of the victims rushed at Gendron in court at one point but was prevented from reaching him by security.
Gendron shot a total of 13 people, 11 of them Black. All of the fatalities were Black.
On the federal level, Gendron faces 10 counts of hate crime resulting in death, three counts of hate crime involving bodily injury, 10 counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a violent crime, and three counts of use and discharge of a firearm during a violent crime, according to a criminal complaint.
He has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, whichcould result in the death penalty. In December, Gendron’s attorneys said at a court hearing that he would be willing to plead guilty to the federal charges if prosecutors took the death penalty off the table.