Workers hold hands as they're led away from an active-shooter crime scene at a King Soopers store in Boulder, Colo., in March.
Another day, another grocery shooting. This time, according to authorities, the suspected shooter may be a current or former employee who opened fire inside a Stop & Shop store in West Hempstead on Long Island in New York. One person shot inside the manager’s office was killed, and two others were injured.
This incident made news headlines on the heels of last month’s rampage at a King Soopers store in Boulder, Colo., that killed 10 people, and the arrest of an armed man at a Publix store in Atlanta. Over the past several days, there have been other reports of gun violence or armed gunmen in Pennsylvania, suburban Chicago and Dallas.
Alex Balian, a Los Angeles-based supermarket consultant and former grocery owner operator, has testified in courts around the country on the topics of store operations, safety, security and risk management. While he points out that there's no “cut-and-dried” solution, he offers advice for operators at a time of what seems to be a spate of mass shootings in the United States.
“The biggest problem is that when you think you are safe, you are not," he told Progressive Grocer. "Does it happen every week? No, but unfortunately, it’s happening more, so extra training is necessary for store personnel to be aware of situations like this and what to do to protect customers and employees. The key for any store – and it doesn’t matter whether you are a chain or a one-store operation – is to make employees aware and have some game plans to react.”
Training can be done by experts in the field, and local law enforcement also can be consulted to provide suggestions on security measures and incident responses.
In the wake of this most recent shooting, a joint statement was released by Gordon Reid, president of Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop, and Mark Perrone, president of the Washington, D.C.-based United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW): “Make no mistake, Stop & Shop associates are essential workers and they deserve essential protections. We are urgently requesting our nation’s state and federal leaders temporarily designate these workers as first responders or emergency personnel. This critical status would help ensure our states' essential grocery workers have priority access to testing, emergency child care and other protections to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy.”
The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. LLC, an Ahold Delhaize USA company, employs nearly 60,000 associates and operates more than 400 stores throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey. Ahold Delhaize USA is No. 11 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. King Soopers' parent, The Kroger Co., based in Cincinnati, is No. 3 on PG's list, while Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix, operating 1,264 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, is No. 12 in the ranking.