The theory that e-commerce costs jobs isn’t ringing true in grocery stores like Kroger.
So far, the opposite is true.
Since launching its ClickList service that allows grocery shoppers to order online and have their purchases bagged and loaded when they arrive at stores, Kroger has added 25 to 35 new jobs at each store offering the service, said Jeff Evans, e-commerce manager for Kroger’s Delta Division.
“In a couple of stores, we’re as high as 40 new jobs per store, so it’s generating a lot of new jobs in every store that we’re putting ClickList in to,” Evans said.
In the near future, Kroger will announce a home-delivery service in the fast-changing, competitive world of retail e-commerce, he said.
“So once again, that’s just generating more jobs because we’ll actually be delivering to homes out of a Kroger store. We’re already testing that in some of our divisions. It’s coming very fast and it never stops,” he said.
In addition to Kroger, from other grocery giants (including Walmart superstores) to smaller players including SuperLo and Cash Saver, the grocery industry is finding ways to link digital shopping to brick-and-mortar services.
The quality of e-commerce jobs being created are on par with others in a grocery industry in Shelby County where the average wage last year was $10.18, or $21,164 a year, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Grocers in Memphis and Shelby County operate more than 600 stores employing an estimated 6,700 workers — the largest numbers of any county in Tennessee.
Kroger’s Evans said that most of the jobs created for ClickList are part time.
“We need flexibility because we are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. That’s when customers can pick up groceries, so we’ve got to have the flexibility and obviously you’ve got a good bit of flexibility with part-time associates,” he said.
Each ClickList roll-out starts with three full-time positions: a manager, a lead selector who trains the store’s grocery pickers and a lead attendant who trains attendants who deliver purchases to customer’s awaiting vehicles. The selectors and attendants are new positions, while the manager is usually an experienced employee, he said.
Pay depends on experience in grocery or retail work and is comparable to the store’s clerks.
However, part-time positions can qualify workers for full-time work, and a lot at Kroger are turning full time, said Lonnie Sheppard, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1529 that represents Kroger workers.
Sheppard views e-commerce as one of the grocery chain’s moves — in addition to beer growler stations, juice bars and growing attention to nutrition — as trying ways to satisfy customers.
He confirms that e-commerce, so far, is adding jobs.
“There’s a little bit lighter customer volume inside because they don’t have to go in, but all of the work is being done within the store, so that is good,” Sheppard said.
The cost of labor, particularly for home delivery, is a key factor for e-commerce growth in the grocery industry around the world, according to a 2015 Nielsen survey.
Lower labor costs, higher population densities and growing smartphone use make online ordering for home delivery in China and the Asia-Pacific region the growth leader for e-commerce in the global industry.
Competing for retail dollars spent by millennials and younger generations also drives e-commerce, according to Nielsen.
“These consumers have an unprecedented enthusiasm for and comfort with technology and online shopping is a deeply ingrained behavior,” the global survey found. “Current usage of six e-commerce options (home delivery, in-store pickup, drive-through pickup, curbside pickup, virtual supermarket and automatic subscription) is greatest among the youngest respondents, and they are also the most willing to use all of the e-commerce options in the future.”
Kroger’s e-commerce growth has created jobs, Evans said, adding “we’ve not cut any positions or any hours inside the store due to a ClickList operation.”
The Cincinnati-based chain has started more than two dozen ClickList operations at stores in Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas overseen from Memphis.
Data shows if shoppers visit a Kroger brick-and-mortar store five times a month, e-commerce encourages an additional sale, Evans said.
“So you’re still coming and we’re just getting more of that wallet, as some folks like to say,” Evans said. “And that’s e-commerce, period.”