Monday, October 1, 2012

Grocery Giants Slash Hours

     Murrieta grocery shoppers will need to adjust to new store hours at several big chain supermarkets across the city.
Photo credit: Aaron Cordova

    Despite the trend of other retail stores changing their operating hours depending on the season, these core grocery stores serving the Murrieta and Wildomar areas have held the same 6 a.m.-to-midnight schedules for over a decade, but that’s all changing now.
 Since last week, a total of four popular grocery stores-- two Albertsons and two Ralphs- have reduced their hours, both opening one hour later in the morning and closing one or two hours earlier in the evening.
“It’s definitely annoying” says Kristen Andrews, an employee at a Mexican restaurant adjacent to Ralphs. “Now if I really needed anything before we open or late after we close, I’d have to go to Wal Mart across town.”
She, along with her coworkers, were surprised by the sudden shift in hours of the major chains. “We didn’t even know what happened, Ralphs always opens at six” She said. “It was really convenient, but I guess I’ll have to plan things differently.”
Katherine Gonzales, a cashier at Ralphs on Alta Murrieta Road explained the sudden change at the store she has worked at for over twelve years.
“We’re a slower store” she said, in comparison to other Southern California Ralph’s locations. “The company wanted a change, and the new hours are from here on out.”

  Luckily for employees at her location, working hours have not been reduced and no lay-offs have been implemented. “The employees love it” she said. “They get to go home earlier and get out before midnight now.”
 As for shoppers, some have found the surprise to be irksome.
“In the beginning it affected a lot of people on their way to work who would come in at 6:00a.m. to get their morning coffee and cash for the day.”
In consideration of any inconvenience experienced by loyal customers, Ralphs has made efforts to try and accommodate shoppers unaware of the change.
“If customers are in the store at closing time, we don’t kick them out” Gonzales explained. “[Employees] have to stay after closing anyways.” 
Referring to how the stores would handle the confusion of shoppers, Gonzales assured that the change was not intended to annoy anyone, and that Ralphs will do what is necessary to prevent headaches, saying “one guy with his wife came in right before we close at 11:00 and stayed almost until midnight, so I had to stay here and wait.”
 All the same, she is among the more lucky grocery store employees who will suffer far less than competitor grocery chain Albertsons staff members.
 Manager Jim Parsons has worked at Albertsons on Cal Oaks Road for two years, but has been in the grocery industry for nearly 40.
“It was a business decision,” Parsons stated regarding Albertsons new hours of operation.  “It was something that had to be done.”
Albertsons has suffered significant financial loss lately, which has been publicized along with the news of many store closures throughout the state. To avoid such drastic measures, Murrieta Albertsons have followed company policy of adjusting hours based on shopping trends in the area.
Parsons explained that “each store had say in what hours would be adjusted based on busy times, like if a school is nearby they might keep early opening hours but close earlier at night.” This strategic policy gave individual locations the freedom to cater to their guests’ needs. “If we see a drastic change in business at certain times, we might adjust,” said Parsons.
 A decline in business was also the cited reason for amending the operating hours at Albertsons. Unlike Ralphs, though, the store has already experienced more severe losses, like “big cutbacks in hours,” said Parsons, speaking on how his employees and co-workers have suffered in recent weeks. “A lot of people were laid off.”

    The customers are the greatest priority, says Parsons. He acknowledges that everyone operates on their own schedules, and it is important for Albertsons to make life easier for customers by providing merchandise when they need, and have time to get it.
 “It used to be a lot different” Parsons said. “A long time ago, [grocery store] hours were much less than today,” and even with the recent earlier closing time, shoppers have more options than in years past. “It was closing at 9:00, and no holidays,” Parsons stated. “On Sunday it was 10a.m. to 6p.m.”
 Late-night or early-morning Murrieta shoppers still have options if needed, such as Winco Grocery Store on Winchester in Temecula, which is open 24 hours every day.

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