NORFOLK — Kroger Mid-Atlantic announced Thursday it will close its store in here on Little Creek Road on Dec. 19 because of declining sales and profitability, according to a news release from the company.
The Little Creek store opened in 2000 and is one of the oldest Kroger stores in Hampton Roads, according to the news release. It was purchased by Kroger as part of the Hannaford Bros. acquisition in 2000. The lease for the Little Creek store will expire in May of 2019.
“The decision to close a store is one that we take very seriously as we know that many people are impacted by the closing,” Jerry Clontz, president of Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic Division said in an emailed statement. “This store’s low financial returns made it impossible to continue to operate while still upholding our low-price commitment to our customers,” .
Jonathan Williams, director of communications for the Local 400 chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said the union has been preparing for the possibility of the store closing for months.
“This has been particularly contentious and unique circumstance,” Williams said.”The company notified us that they were considering closing 536,” which is the store number of the Little Creek location.
Williams that the union was also aware that Kroger was considering the construction of a new store in a Farm Fresh across the street, which was purchase by Kroger in April.
“Typically, if a Kroger closes, all of the employees are able to transfer to a nearby store. Which means all of their benefits, seniority, and rates of pay, remain in tact,” Williams said.
In this case, the Farm Fresh store across the street would have been convenient for displaced workers of the Little Creek store.
“What’s unique about this situation is that when Kroger bought Farm Fresh, they told us that they weren’t going to allow unionized workers, that it would be a nonunion store,” Williams said.
Williams said the Local 400 then mounted a campaign to place pressure on Kroger in early summer. The union lobbied Kroger to allow employees from the Little Creek store to transfer to the new store across the street, if the company ended up building a Kroger there.
Kroger eventually agreed to transfer all interested employees to the newly opened store if one was built, an agreement good for up to six months after the closing.
But according to Kroger’s announcement Thursday, the chain will not open another Kroger in the old Farm Fresh space.
“Our contracts still state that Kroger will transfer our members to a nearby store, but there aren’t a whole lot of union stores in Hampton Roads,” Williams said.
The closest union store is in Virginia Beach, but that is not very convenient for some of the Kroger employees at the Little Creek store.
“For a lot of our members that rely on public transportation, the commute calculation is something they definitely have to consider,” Williams said.
Williams said Local 400 and Kroger are in negotiations on the placement Kroger employees of the Little Creek store, which is slated to close just before Christmas.