retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Santa Barbara Independent reports that as part of Haggen's moves to cut staff and store hours as a way of cutting costs at the dozens of stores that it recently acquired in California, Arizona and Nevada, it has laid off 14 developmentally disabled workers at five of its California stores.

Haggen - which added 146 stores to its 18-unit fleet when it acquired supermarkets that had to be divested because of the Albertsons acquisition of Safeway - has been making cuts to compensate for the fact that sales are considerably below projections and its stores have been unable to get much traction in the new markets.

The story says that "according to a written statement from PathPoint, an advocacy group for ADA members, every Haggen store in the Santa Barbara area has terminated long-term developmentally disabled employees: one in Carpinteria, two in Five Points, four on the Mesa, one at Turnpike, and six at the Fairview location. In the first round of layoffs, employees received notices of termination during the week of July 17 and were let go 4-5 days later. In the second round of layoffs, employees received notices on July 21 and were let go on July 24.

"PathPoint stated that Haggen has laid off 'all' of the 'courtesy clerks with developmental disabilities that PathPoint had placed with the original corporations.' Those who have been let go will lose seniority and will be forced to rebuild workplace relationships from the bottom up, according to PathPoint. Furthermore, the organization said, there has been talk of an agreement between Albertsons, Vons, and Haggen that prohibits laid-off employees from seeking work at any of the affected stores for one year."

The story also notes that there have been reports that Haggen laid off 17 developmentally disabled employees in its Paso Robles, California, store.

Haggen Pacific Southwest CEO Bill Shaner, the story says, "declined to comment on any of the layoffs, but said they were made 'to ensure we’re operating as efficiently as possible'."
KC's View:
I wonder if the top folks at Haggen get up each morning and scan the sky to see if they can spot a flying pig ... because it seems like it'll only be when pigs fly that the company is likely to get a positive headline.

Let's put aside for a moment all the obvious reasons why this is a headline that nobody would like to see written about their company. Let me just suggest that it reflects a larger problem that Haggen has to deal with.

The programs that place developmentally disabled workers in stores tend to be community-driven programs ... and by eliminating all these workers, Haggen is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of customers and communities that it wants and needs to serve. (Beyond the fact that the company's stores are not exactly bowling anyone over.)

It is just another example - like putting California wine on an Oregon store display hyping local products - that demonstrates a complete and utter tone deafness on the part of this company.