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Kroger ramps up employee benefits

BY Marianne Wilson

The Kroger Co. 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 recently 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 Human Spirit.”

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Amazon continues to ramp up Whole Foods Market grocery delivery

BY Marianne Wilson

Amazon has expanded Whole Foods Market grocery deliveries through Prime Now to another major metro market.

The online giant on Tuesday said it has launched free two-hour delivery from Whole Foods through Prime Now in Los Angeles. Prime members across greater Los Angeles and Orange County — along the coast from Santa Monica to San Clemente, Pasadena to the North and Yorba Linda to the East — are now eligible for the service. Prime members receive two-hour delivery for free and ultra-fast delivery within one hour for $7.99 on orders of $35 or more.

“We’ve been delighted with the customer response to free two-hour delivery through Prime Now, and we’re excited to bring the service to our Los Angeles area customers,” said Christina Minardi, Whole Foods Market executive VP of operations.

The service first launched in February 2018 and is now available in seven cities with plans for continued expansion across the U.S. throughout the rest of the year.

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Walmart in major expansion of grocery delivery

BY Marianne Wilson

Walmart has brought in a new partner to help it expand its delivery of online grocery orders.

The discounter announced it is teaming up with on-demand delivery service Postmates to help expand Walmart online grocery deliveries to more than 40% of U.S. homes. The initiative will start in Charlotte, North Carolina, and expand in the coming months. It comes on the heels of a previous announcement by Walmart that it plans to expand its grocery delivery business across the U.S. in 2018, going from six metro areas to 100 during that time.

Under the agreement with Postmates, after orders have been picked by Walmart’s personal shoppers, a Postmates courier retrieves the order from a Walmart store and delivers it to the customer during their specified delivery window. (Groceries can be delivered same-day.) There is a $30 minimum order threshold, and a $9.95 fee for the delivery services — with no subscription fee. The first order will be free with a $50 minimum and a special code.

“Both Walmart and Postmates strive to make the lives of our customers easier,” said Dan Mosher, senior VP, merchant lead, Postmates. “With our growing fleet of 160,000 couriers, we are confident that we’ll be providing Walmart customers with the ultimate convenience.”

Postmates is not Walmart’s only delivery partner. Uber and Deliv have been helping Walmart test deliveries in select markets, including Dallas, Denver, Orlando, Phoenix, Tampa and San Jose.

In addition, Walmart offers a free service at 1,200 stores that allows customers to order online and pick up their groceries curbside. The service will be expanded to another 1,000 stores this year.

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