Chicago Market

Chicago Market
April 11, 2018 1 Comment Blog Richard Kochersperger

Chicago grocers ramp up hiring, while balancing online growth and brick-and-mortar upgrades

Nearly all major grocery retailers in Chicago now offer some form of delivery or pickup for increasingly tech-savvy consumers on the go.

But they’re also sinking capital into their bricks-and-mortar stores and bolstering their workforces in order to survive in the area’s fiercely competitive grocery industry. Mariano’s parent company Kroger announced Tuesday plans to hire 11,000 positions nationally. That appears to include more than 200 jobs in the Chicago area, according to the company’s website, though Mariano’s wouldn’t confirm the total. Mariano’s also is expanding its ClickList pickup service and remodeling certain Chicago-area locations.

Jewel-Osco, the Chicago area’s largest traditional grocery chain, hires more than 1,200 people a month for its 187 stores, Jewel executives said Tuesday, and is planning 17 remodelings this year, as it ramps up its own delivery service. Such investments come amid looming online shopping threats from Amazon and Walmart, the latter of which announced Tuesday that it would offer online delivery to 40 percent of U.S. homes in the weeks to come.

In today’s grocery world, retailers can’t choose between bricks-and-mortar and online shopping — they have to do it all, said Jewel-Osco President Doug Cygan.

“If you’re not keeping it fresh, you become a little irrelevant,” Cygan said. “What we’re seeing is people want both.”

A Walmart spokesman declined to comment Tuesday on when its delivery service was coming to Chicago, though the company has been expanding its pickup service here in recent years.

Jewel is remodeling stores this year in locations including Tinley Park, Woodstock, Oak Forest, Elgin, Palos Heights and Woodridge, Cygan said. Next year, the chain will open new stores in Woodlawn and Huntley. Jewel also has been busy growing its in-house delivery service, though customers still have the Instacart option as well.

Mariano’s spokeswoman Amanda Puck declined to comment Tuesday, but executives have said in past interviews that the company is planning remodelings this year in Edgewater and Gurnee, among other locations. Mariano’s also is planning to open a Crystal Lake store this year with a fuel station — a new Mariano’s offering in some suburban locations where there’s enough land.

Though delivery is offered in some city locations, Mariano’s has largely focused on its ClickList pickup service. Last year, Kroger expanded ClickList to more than 1,000 locations, the company said last month.

Aldi, too, has been busy. The discounter recently announced a new delivery partnership with Instacart in the Chicago area. And this year, Aldi plans to open nine new stores and remodel about 40 stores in the Chicago area, part of a larger national plan to improve more than 1,300 stores by 2020.

With lighter, more modern stores with more natural and organic offerings, Aldi’s business has continued to grow in recent years. The partnership with Instacart sends a clear message that store renovations are not enough in the rapidly changing industry.

By 2022, U.S. consumers could spend $100 billion a year in online grocery sales, the equivalent of every U.S. household spending $850 a year for groceries online, according to a collaborative study between the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen released earlier this year.

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