Kroger Goes Shopping for 20,000 New Grocery Workers

The nation’s largest supermarket chain, Kroger, plans to hire about 20,000 workers in a push for growth during a period of grocery consolidation. The new hires will join another 40,000 workers added to Kroger’s roster since 2008, bringing its workforce to 375,000.

The Cincinnati-based retailer opened 216 new supermarkets last year to reach at 2,640 stores in all. Kroger executives increased its capital spending by $200 million annually to expand its retail footprint in 2012 as executives discussed growth opportunities in new cities.

The grocery business has expanded dramatically in recent years beyond the traditional destination for weekly household staples, with large pharmacy, gasoline, and restaurant operations. Kroger even operates 327 jewelry stores.

Kroger’s new hiring is “based on existing need in stores today, as well as near-term new store growth,” spokesman Keith Dailey said in an e-mail. He said hiring would begin right away.

Kroger completed its $2.4 billion takeover of the Harris Teeter supermarket chain in January, its largest deal in 16 years, and last month completed the $280 million purchase of Vitacost, a Boca Raton (Fla.) vitamin and health supplement retailer.

Earlier this year, Cerberus Capital Management bought Safeway for $9.4 billion, only about 14 months after the investment firm acquired Albertsons and several other grocery chains from SuperValu for more than $3 billion. Kroger had also sought to buy parts of Safeway, Bloomberg News reported in March. After Cerberus completes its Safeway purchase, it could sell parts of its varied grocery operations—and Kroger may well be a buyer.

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