Albertsons to lay off up to 2,500 in Calif., Nev.

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FULLERTON, Calif. (AP) — Albertsons will lay off as many as 2,500 employees at 247 Southern California and southern Nevada supermarkets beginning June 17, the supermarket chain announced Wednesday.

Some employees will be laid off at every store and the layoffs should be finished by July 1. Representatives would not say if any stores would close or if there would be additional rounds of layoffs.

There are 34 stores in Las Vegas, Pahrump, Boulder and Henderson in Nevada, the company said. The rest are in California, from Paso Robles to San Ysidro.

The company downsized in February at its Fullerton support center but the need for further changes was clear, Albertsons Southern California President Dan Sanders said in a statement. Albertsons suffered a decrease in customers and sales throughout the division and did not respond adequately to customer needs, he said.

The layoffs do not affect the chain's Intermountain West division or Albertsons' parent, SuperValu Inc., officials said. Albertsons is the largest retail chain in SuperValu's family of stores.

"A decision of this nature is never easy, but it is the necessary step for us to take to help improve our business and accelerate our turnaround," Sanders said.

Albertsons is working with the employee union, officials said.

"It's the largest single layoff we have had that I can ever remember," said Greg Conger, president of United Food Commercial Workers, Local 324 in Orange County. "It's pretty devastating."

The union was contacted Wednesday morning, he said. The local will monitor the layoffs to make sure they are done by classification and seniority, as required in the collective bargaining agreement.

Senior employees will be allowed to accept lesser positions, so the people who will be laid off will be the newest employees or those with the least experience, Conger said.

The chain was founded in 1939 and operates 445 Albertsons and Lucky supermarkets in Southern California, southern Nevada, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

SuperValu Inc. has estimated annual sales of $35 billion. It has about 4,300 stores, which include 1,102 traditional retail stores with 797 in-store pharmacies; 1,332 hard-discount stores (935 are operated by licensee owners) and 1,900 independent stores serviced primarily by the company's traditional food distribution business.

SuperValu has approximately 130,000 employees.

Other stores aren't hiring now, Conger said, "but I would suggest that by lowering their workforce by this huge number, they will lose large numbers of customers and that will open up some jobs (at other markets)."

"Ever since SuperValu purchased Albertsons, they have had difficulty running conventional grocery stores," Conger added. The company specializes in big box stores, he explained.

Asked if he thought the company was going about fixing problems the right way, Conger said he could answer that question better if he knew the problem they were trying to fix.

"Most companies look at pricing and see if they are competitive. You never see layoffs like this," he said.

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