Thanks to The Food Industry Association (FMI), February 22nd is Supermarket Employee Day. If you find yourself at a supermarket today, please take the time to thank an employee before you leave. Supermarkets play a vital role in our daily lives, and it’s the employees who are the backbone for the stores running. It’s surprising it took a pandemic to begin recognizing supermarket employees as “essential workers.” To me and my family, they’ve always been essential. 

There are more than 4.8 million people working in the industry, across the 63,000 supermarkets in the U.S. They’re our neighbors, our kids, and even our parents and grandparents. Working at a grocery store is a common first-time job for teenagers and it’s a great education customer service and work ethic. The job has never been more challenging than today, in the face of supply chain issues, health concerns, and staff shortages. According to Reuters, many grocery stores are operating at less than 50% of their workforce capacity. So, it’s important to thank the employees who are still working, I’m certain they’ll appreciate it.  

I worked for a number of years at a regional grocery chain in the IT and human resources departments. In fact, that’s where I shifted my career from manufacturing to retail, and it’s also where I learned the ins and outs of what it takes to keep grocery stores running. Everything from vendor negotiations, new item introductions, product assortment decisions, pricing strategies, and weekly ad designs, and even down to the daily store operations is important and requires a tenacious attention to detail.  

This is why retail technology has become such an essential part of any grocer’s business strategy. Today, with more customers buying online, grocers need to expand their store services to include online ordering and curbside pickup or home delivery. Supermarket workers are stretched further than ever before, which is why they can benefit from a modern workforce management system that offers more scheduling flexibility.  

I typically visit my local supermarkets 2 to 3 times a week to stock up for the family. Maybe it’s from working at a grocery chain in the past, but I feel a real connection when I enter the supermarket. I enjoy the routine of it all, coupled with the in-store discoveries each visit such as new seasonal fruits, something freshly baked in the bakery department, or yet another flavor of Cheerios™.  

Supermarkets feel almost like a second home to me since the store layouts and the smiling faces are so familiar. Supermarket employees are dedicated to their jobs, passionate about their stores, and involved in their communities. On a regular basis, I see supermarkets donating to local charities, sponsoring community events, raising money for the schools, and even promoting high school sports.  

Supermarket employees also put up with a very demanding customer base. We’re all aware of today’s product shortages and supply chain challenges, but we still expect to find everything we’re shopping for, no matter what. We recently had an unusual snowfall of 6” where I live, and in the days leading up to the storm, supermarkets were packed with people panic-shopping. Amid nearly-bare shelves, crowded aisles, and impatient customers in check-out lines, employees were patiently helping everyone, and smiling along the way. It reminded me how chaotic and exhausting things can be for supermarket employees whenever a big holiday or unexpected weather event comes around.  

I loved working in grocery and I’m happy to remain connected with the industry, helping supermarkets run more efficiently and deliver exceptional experiences with Blue Yonder’s grocery solutions. So to the good folks who stock the shelves, clean the floors, work the registers, and bag my groceries – plus all the workers behind the scenes or at corporate – I thank you. I hope you are celebrated and appreciated today especially for all that you do. In my eyes you are all #SupermarketHeroes!