“With this pivotal acquisition, we will have the opportunity to introduce many more customers to the Haggen experience,” John Caple, chairman of the Haggen board of directors and partner at Comvest Partners, a private investment firm that owns the majority of Haggen’s shares, said when the acquisition was announced in late 2014. “Our Pacific Northwest grocery store chain has been committed to local sourcing, investing in the communities we serve, and providing genuine service and homemade quality since it was founded in 1933. We will continue our focus on sourcing and investing locally even with this exciting expansion.”
CEOs John Clougher and Bill Shaner lead the newly expanded company. Clougher, CEO for the Pacific Northwest, will have primary responsibility for the northern division of Washington and Oregon. Shaner, Haggen’s CEO for the Pacific Southwest, will have primary responsibility for the southern division of California, Nevada and Arizona. “The two will work together to steward the company’s commitment to its employees, customers, business partners and stakeholders,” the company says.
Haggen is in the process of converting all of the acquired Albertson and Safeway stores to its own brand. A total of 19 stores in Washington were converted in February and March, and 83 stores in California were converted from March to May. Stores in Oregon began transferring in March and April, with the remainder set for May.
Stores in Nevada and Arizona began transitioning in May and June.
Interior and exterior signage will change at all locations. All Albertson’s and Safeway store employees are being given the opportunity to become employees of Haggen as their individual stores are transitioned. Current store management teams will also be retained, the company notes.
“Retaining the existing store employees was an essential part of the acquisition and we hope they all accept our invitation to join the Haggen family,” Shaner said. “These are great teams and these new employees will be an incredible asset to our growing company. Plus, these familiar faces will help ease the brand transition for long-time customers.” The company is also expanding its pharmacy management staff from six to 28 people to manage its newly expanded store network. The expanded operation will encompass 470 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, the company says.
The conversion time will vary from store to store. Some conversions can take place within two days, while others will take longer. “We’re excited about the changes we’re making to enhance these stores, and we’re confident customers will like the new look, the new offerings and their new full-service grocery destination,” Clougher said.
Haggen is making an effort to keep prices within the range expected by longtime customers. “Our goal is to provide a unique, hassle-free shopping experience,” the company says. “We offer essential items you need, specialty items you want and local items that reflect the community – all at fair, competitive prices. We like to think of ourselves as a full-line grocery store with a bias toward fresh, quality, organic, local and healthy-for-you options, so that guests can do all their shopping with us instead of traveling to multiple stores.”
Customers of the converted stores will notice a difference in some offerings. “Haggen has built its 81-year-old business on providing excellent, locally sourced fresh produce and high-quality meats and seafood,” Shaner said. “That focus will definitely be reflected in the new stores.”
Haggen will vary its selection by location. “Haggen is still small enough to be very nimble and responsive to each store’s customers,” he adds. “What you find in a Bellingham, Wash., store will differ from what you’ll find in a store in San Diego. Being locally focused is a core value of Haggen.”
The company has supported regional farms, ranches, fisheries and other businesses throughout most of its history, “creating a lasting and sustainable local food economy,” it says.
Haggen is also deeply involved in the communities it serves and supports local events and partnerships. This includes its donation in February of more than 45,000 pounds of apples to Northwest Harvest and Oregon Food Bank as part of the Take a Bite Out of Hunger program, sponsored by FirstFruits Marketing of Washington.
FirstFruits Marketing of Washington created the campaign “to help feed underserved people while bringing attention to the problem of food insecurity in the United States and Canada,” it says. This is the first year it partnered with Haggen to make donations to local charities.
“Take a Bite Out of Hunger is a great way to provide fresh produce to our local food banks, something that is often lacking on their shelves,” said Clement Stevens, senior vice president of merchandising and marketing at Haggen. “This program nourishes people in need by donating fresh and healthy apples in the communities where we work and live.”
The company in April also donated more than $40,000 to support the four national parks in Washington and Oregon, a figure that represents two percent of its Earth Day sales at its locations in those states. The chain asked its Facebook followers to vote on their favorite parks, and determined the amount of its donations based on the results of that poll, it says.
The company donated $33,690 to Washington’s National Park Fund, which donated $12,433 of that amount to Olympic National Park, $10,829 to Rainier National Park and $10,428 to North Cascades National Park. Haggen’s remaining donation of $6,417 went to Friends of Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.
The acquisition of the 146 stores by Haggen has been well-received by many of the company’s suppliers and partners. “We are incredibly grateful for key partners that have helped to make this acquisition a reality, including Unified Grocers, SUPERVALU and Charlie’s Produce,” Clougher says.
Unified Grocers will be the company’s primary supplier in the Pacific Southwest and a secondary supplier in the Pacific Northwest. SUPERVALU will be the primary supplier in the Pacific Northwest, and Charlie’s Produce will be the supplier for produce for all Haggen stores.
Haggen and Unified Grocers in March 2014 extended their supply partnership for an additional five years. Based in Los Angeles, Unified has served as Haggen’s primary supplier since 2007.
Starbucks is another key partner. The coffee chain will continue operating and plans to remodel 78 stores in Haggen’s acquired properties. “We are proud to be continuing and expanding our partnership with Starbucks – another great Washington company committed to building stronger communities,” Clougher adds. “With the help of both our longstanding and new partners and employees, we are excited to offer our locally sourced produce and groceries, genuine service and homemade quality to customers throughout Washington and Oregon and now in California, Nevada and Arizona.”
Haggen was one of the first grocery store companies to incorporate a Starbucks into its locations. This is just one of the significant accomplishments for the company, which was established in Bellingham by Ben and Dorothy Haggen along with Doug Clark in 1933.
“Having grown right alongside our neighbors, we feel a special connection to the people we serve and have dedicated ourselves to providing our customers with the very best quality, personal service, and the latest innovations from around the world,” the company says. “We are proud of the many nationwide firsts we’ve introduced in our stores, from fresh seafood on ice to an FTD floral department.”