Mega supermarket chain Kroger announced this week that it plans to close three additional grocery stores in Los Angeles. The nation’s largest grocery chain is placing blame on “underperforming stores,” as well as the LA City Council and Board of Supervisors who in February approved a $5/hour “hero pay” increase for grocery store workers for the following 120 days. On the chopping block are a Food 4 Less on West Sunset, a Ralphs store in Hyde Park, and another in Pico-Robertson. The stores will close on May 15.
This is the second round of store closures planned by Kroger, after the company previouisly announced closures at a Long Beach Ralphs and Food 4 Less on April 17. The company offered the same explanation for these “underperforming” stores after mayor Robert Garcia and the Long Beach City Council approved a $4 per hour “premium pay” increase over the next four months. According to the Los Angeles Times, Kroger said this temporary pay bump will add $20 million in operating costs, putting these stores in jeopardy.
The Ralphs closure on West Slauson has the potential to negatively impact the surrounding Hyde Park community, particularly due to a lack of other robust grocery operations in the immediate area. The closest big box grocery store is 1.4 miles east, with the closest westward store nearly three miles away. Many of South LA residents have no access to a private vehicle, making access to food shopping that much more challenging.
In October, a Harvard study concluded that grocery store workers face a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than from airplane travel. Kroger offers two weeks of paid sick leave if any employee tests positive for the virus. Meanwhile, the company nearly tripled its profits in 2020, posting an $819 million profit last year on sales of $30.5 billion, per the Cincinnati Enquirer.