Haggen to close 4 of 11 stores in Orange County; more may follow

The California closures include

Los Osos: Los Osos Valley Road (Santa Barbara)

Newbury Park: Newbury Road (Los Angeles)

Simi Valley: Cochran Street

Simi Valley: 660 E. Los Angeles Ave.

Bakersfield: E. Stockdale Highway

Santa Clarita: McBean Parkway

San Marcos: Rancho Santa Fe, San Diego

El Cajon: Fletcher Pkwy., San Diego

La Mesa: Lake Murray Blvd., San Diego

Chula Vista: Telegraph Canyon Road, San Diego

Chula Vista: Third Ave., San Diego

San Ysidro: W. San Ysidro Blvd., San Diego

Four of 11 Haggen stores in Orange County will close in the next 60 days, the company announced Friday.

Haggen said it would shutter or sell stores in California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. The Bellingham-Wash.-based grocer debuted in Orange County this spring after acquiring stores from the Alberstons-Safeway merger. In a list provided by the company, 16 stores in California were slated for closure.

Local stores that will close in two months include:

Irvine: Portola Parkway

Mission Viejo: Los Alisos Boulevard

Tustin: 17th Street

Tustin: E. First Street

The fate of the remaining seven stores in Orange County is unknown.

Haggen said in a statement that most of the stores being closed or sold were acquired as part of the transaction in which Albertsons and Safeway divested 146 stores. Additional stores will be sold or closed in the future as part of the company’s “right-sizing” strategy.

The company stated it has not determined how many jobs will be affected as a result of the closures and sales.

“Haggen’s goal going forward is to ensure a stable, healthy company that will benefit our customers, associates, vendors, creditors, stakeholders as well as the communities we serve,” said Bill Shaner, Haggen chief executive at the Pacific Southwest division. “By making the tough choice to close and sell some stores, we will be able to invest in stores that have the potential to thrive under the Haggen banner.”

The Pacific Southwest division is based in Irvine. In mid-July the it announced layoffs at each of its new stores. Haggen reportedly cut between six and 10 jobs per store across its Southwest region.

Greg Conger, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 324 in Buena Park that represents local workers at Haggen, told the Register in July that courtesy clerks at 83 stores were being let go and a large number of full-time employees were being demoted to part-time.

The union filed a grievance on behalf of the full-time staffers who were reduced to part time because “arbitrarily reducing someone from full time to part time without recognizing seniority is against the contract.” Individual grievances will be filed later, he added.

According to the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper, a class action discrimination lawsuit was filed in Santa Barbara Superior Court on July 31 against Haggen on behalf of a 60-year-old developmentally disabled man who had worked as a courtesy clerk at a Vons location Haggen bought. The suit was filed on behalf of all California-based developmentally disabled courtesy clerks that Haggen has laid off since the beginning of this year.

In a statement, Haggen said employees were laid off due to financial need: “The decision to eliminate the clerks helper job classification in our Pacific Southwest Region stores was made out of business necessity.”

The company struggled in Orange County almost immediately after opening as customers criticized the grocer’s pricing strategy.

Karen Lyons, a Corona del Mar resident, said she stopped shopping at the Corona del Mar Haggen, formerly an Albertsons, because the prices were simply too high.

“A lot of people stopped coming to the store because of that issue,” she said. “Haggen didn’t have any discounts on its own brand. Their meat department’s prices, everything went up.”

Lyons said the pricing was similar to that of Bristol Farms and Whole Foods, both of which are nearby.

Through the acquisition, Haggen expanded from 18 stores with 16 pharmacies and 2,000 employees in the Pacific Northwest to 164 stores and 106 pharmacies employing more than 10,000 people in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Arizona.

Guy Ball, of Tustin, was among the Haggen shoppers who complained about high prices.

“I was finding that I would go in expecting to spend about $60 and it would be an $80 bill,” Ball said. “They don’t have a range of sales. They have gotten better, but it’s still not enough for me to go in on a regular basis. I still don’t see the overall value of going there.”

“I think Haggen severely misread the market. I think they thought we could all afford the change and were expecting Whole Foods pricing, but that’s not the case. Most of us are middle class,” he added.

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