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Supermarket giant in big hiring push

BY Marianne Wilson

The Kroger Co. is going on a hiring blitz.

The company is looking to fill 11,000 positions in its supermarket division, including almost 2,000 management jobs. Kroger said it created 10,000 new jobs in 2017 and 12,000 in 2016, not including jobs created as a result of capital investment, such as temporary construction jobs, or increases as a result the company’s mergers.

In addition, Kroger is investing an incremental $500 million in associate wages, training and development during the next three years. The company noted that last month in Cincinnati, Kroger associates ratified a labor agreement with the UFCW 75 that set the stage for starting wage and overall wage increases in multiple markets across the country. The agreement raised starting wages to at least $10 per hour, and accelerated wage progressions to $11 an hour after one year of service, for associates in the Cincinnati/Dayton division.

As previously announced, Kroger has also committed to invest a significant portion of the tax benefit it received from the recent tax act in its employees’ future. The company plans to announce the details of the program this month.

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Study: Nearly half of online orders to be delivered within two hours by 2028

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Retailers are rethinking — and speeding up — their logistics operations to create a faster purchasing journey for customers.

To satisfy online consumers that want a faster purchasing experience, 78% of logistics companies expect to provide same-day delivery by 2023. Meanwhile, 40% anticipate two-hour delivery windows by 2028, according to the “Future of Fulfillment Vision study,” from Zebra Technologies.

To better meet the growing expectations of the on-demand economy, 76% of retailers use store inventory to fill online orders, and 86% of companies plan to implement buy online/pick up in store in the next year. Retailers are also investing in retrofitting stores to double as online fulfillment centers, and shrinking selling space to accommodate e-commerce pickups and returns.

In addition, 87% of retailers expect to use crowdsourced delivery, or a network of drivers that can get orders to customers faster, by 2028.

Next-generation supply chains will reflect connected, business-intelligence and automated solutions that will add newfound speed, precision and cost effectiveness to transportation and labor. The most disruptive technologies will be drones (39%), driverless/autonomous vehicles (38%), wearable and mobile technology (37%) and robotics (37%).
In other key findings:

• Supply chains will also become less error-prone, as 49% of companies will add more radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, tagging solutions and inventory management platforms in the next few years. The technology heightens inventory accuracy and shopper satisfaction while reducing out of stocks, overstocks and replenishment errors.

• While 72% of organizations currently utilize barcodes, 55 are still using inefficient, manual pen-and-paper based processes to enable omnichannel logistics. By 2021, handheld mobile computers with barcode scanners will be used by 94% of respondents for omnichannel logistics.

• Accepting and managing returns also remains a challenge for 87% of respondents, especially as the increase in free and fast product delivery corresponds with an increase in returned merchandise. Seven in 10 surveyed executives agree that more retailers will turn stores into fulfillment centers that accommodate product returns.

• More than 60% of retailers that currently do not offer free shipping, free returns or same-day delivery plan to do so, while 44% expect to outsource returns management to a third party.

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NRF: Imports threatened by growing trade war

BY Marianne Wilson

Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports are on the rise — at least for now.

Imports at the ports are expected to grow a healthy 5.8% year-over-year this month. But they could be threatened if the developing trade war the United States and China continues to escalate, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Tariffs are a tax on American consumers in the form of higher prices but they are also a tax on American jobs,” said Jonathan Gold, VP for supply chain and customs policy, NRF. “If tariffs ultimately lead to a reduction in imports and exports, that will put dockworkers and countless others in the supply chain out of work. American consumers and workers should not be punished for China’s wrongdoing.”

Added Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett: “There is nothing good about a trade war. It is a vicious circle of retaliation where there are no winners, only losers.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.69 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in February, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 4.1% from January, but up 15% from a year ago. (The year-over-year number is skewed because of fluctuations in when Lunar New Year factory shutdowns occur in Asia each year.) A TEU is one 20-ft.-long cargo container or its equivalent.

March was estimated at 1.54 million TEU, down 1.2% year-over-year. April is forecast at 1.72 million TEU, up 5.8% from last year.

The first half of 2018 is expected to total 10.4 million TEU, an increase of 5.6% over the first half of 2017. The total for 2017 was 20.5 million TEU, up 7.6% from 2016’s previous record of 19.1 million TEU.

Global Port Tracker, produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

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