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11 questions answered about the future of Kroger

Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods has waged a full-out war between grocers — signifying an upcoming transformation of the grocery shopping game in major markets across the U.S., including the Southwest Ohio region.

The Dayton Daily News asked Tim Brown, president of Kroger’s Cincinnati/Dayton division, what local customers can expect from Kroger as the grocery industry continues to evolve. Here’s what Brown had to say about Kroger’s future:

Does Kroger have any stores openings or store renovations planned for Dayton, Springfield and Northern Cincinnati?

We opened new stores in Centerville and Fairborn in 2017 that fall into the Dayton operating area, and are currently remodeling store 758-Waynetown.

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Kroger is opening a store in downtown Cincinnati. Is there a shift back to opening stores in urban settings, and could there be a possibility of opening a store in downtown Dayton?

We do not currently have a store project in downtown Dayton but are continuously evaluating our markets to look for new opportunities. We will continue to invest in Dayton which is an important component of our division.

Does Kroger feel a responsibility to communities impacted by food deserts?

Kroger strives to operate responsibly and in all the communities in which we live and serve, hope to end food insecurity by 2025 through our Zero Hunger Zero Waste program.

With recent store openings, how many employees does Kroger now have in the Dayton region? How much has been invested in new stores and store renovations within the past 10 years in the region?

Following our most recent openings we have approximately 6,000 workers in the Dayton area where we have invested over $160 million in new storing, remodels and fuel centers in the past 10 years.

Between ClickList and Scan N’ Go, Kroger is unveiling a lot of new technologies. What can customers expect to see in local stores?

Today, offering the best possible shopping experience means offering customers more choices on when and how they engage with us, and allowing them to personalize the experience as much as possible. This means customers can expect to see more innovation such as Scan Bag Go or ClickList that allow them to shop the way they choose, and to bring them the offers and experience they desire most.

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Kroger is one of the largest employers in the region. Some people are worried new technology will phase out some store positions. What would you say to people who have that concern?

Some of our friendliest and most tenured associates reside in our cashier positions and we are excited to offer them the opportunity to learn new skills and provide our customers great service in other areas of the store. We have had success developing talent and supporting our associates as they transition to different departments and new parts of our business. Examples include moving to the ClickList team (which has created 15,000 net new positions to date) or moving an associate who was scanning products on the front end whose mission now is to help customers have a personal experience selecting food in our stores. Kroger is a great place to come for a job…and stay for a career. We created 10,000 new jobs across our company last year all while accelerating the adoption of new technologies.

Would Kroger ever phase out traditional check-out lines completely?

It is difficult to imagine a day without an in-store shopping experience that would require traditional check-out lanes and cashiers. So many of our customers still enjoy the traditional shopping experience of coming to the store and making their selections personally, and interacting with our associates and others that it is not something I expect to see in my lifetime.

There have been reports of Kroger possibly teaming up with different e-commerce companies. How do you see Kroger’s strategy for e-commerce and digital sales changing within the next five years?

While we don’t comment on rumors or speculation, I do think it’s safe to say that I expect to see continued integration in our industry that leads to unique partnerships that further innovation and support the continued growth of online shopping.

Kroger has introduced popular products like the Prep+Pared Meal Kits. What other new products can customers expect to see in stores in the next few years?

Customers can expect to see more offerings from Our Brands such as Simple Truth, Private Selection, and Kroger brands in categories that align with customer food trends such as healthy lifestyle foods, functional foods and beverages, and ethnic foods. Our customers have a clear passion for food, and we will continue to grow our selection based on their requests and needs.

Organic produce sales have increased to more than $1 billion in annual sales. What’s driving this increase, and will the Simple Truth brand expand to add more products this year?

The increase in organic produce is being driven by customers who prefer organic items over their conventional counterparts as well as lower prices on some organic items making them more accessible than in the past. Kroger has led the way feeding our customers’ appetites for natural, organic and “free-from” products. Now the second largest brand sold in our stores, Simple Truth will continue to innovate and introduce new items in 2018 that align with customer trends and are always affordable.

What is the most significant way that Kroger has been impacted by the changing grocery industry, and what do you want customers and employees to know about the future of Kroger?

The most significant benefit of the changes in our industry has been the ability to advance innovation and accelerate our strategies to deliver the best customer experience imaginable. We are excited about the future and eager to deliver on the strategies outlined in our Restock Kroger plan. We also look forward to the end of food insecurity and waste through our Zero Hunger Zero Waste program.

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