Stacy Wiggins, vice president of e-commerce operations
Stop & Shop supermarkets
The Globe is sharing the experiences of business owners, in their own words, as they deal with the economic effects of the pandemic.
COVID-19 has proven fatal to many businesses. But it resurrected the Stop & Shop supermarket on Belmont Street in Brockton, which originally opened in 1995. Closed this year in late April because of lackluster sales, the store resumed operations in early May to satisfy the surging demand for online grocery orders during the pandemic lockdown. The store once employed 150 workers. Now, about half that number remain, preparing orders for pickup or for home delivery by a fleet of trucks. Stacy Wiggins, Stop & Shop’s vice president of e-commerce operations, explains how it all came together. (This interview was edited for clarity and length.)
The store was originally scheduled for closure because it’s been an underperforming store for us relative to expectations. We did have it scheduled to close in the latter part of April, but then the pandemic hit, and we really saw that there was a demand for online ordering. People were nervous to go inside a store.
So we thought, you know what? Instead of shutting it down, let’s try to see if there’s an appetite in the Brockton area for a fulfillment center. We closed the brick-and-mortar on the 25th of April. On May 6 we opened it up as a fulfillment center. We did see that it was working for us at the height of the pandemic. We began servicing hundreds of online orders each week at a time when we were advised to stay at home. It was available for the community in a really big time of need.
The store that exists today, we have 76 people who work there, full-time, part-time. That includes our drivers as well. All of the fixturing of the traditional brick-and-mortar store for Brockton is all still there. However, the variety of items does not exist. We don’t carry as many items as what we would in a brick-and-mortar store. We have all of the departments, but not full variety, because it’s not needed.
It is not your traditional supermarket. We carry Cheerios, right? In a traditional grocery store you might have six different types of Cheerios. In this particular store we’re only going to carry the top three. Our shoppers actually get the shopping list loaded into a wrist unit. It tells them exactly which aisle and which location that product is at.
Brockton’s what we call a “dark store.” It was an existing store that we turned into e-commerce home shopping. Click and collect. This facility services 14 different ZIP codes in total. That includes Brockton, north and south Easton, West Bridgewater, Walpole, Sharon, Stoughton, and Foxborough.
You can’t really say that financially it’s doing better or it’s doing worse. The expectation was not that it sold as much, because you don’t have the same amount of variety in this particular building. You don’t have that foot traffic that you had coming in as a brick and mortar.
For me, the most positive thing is that we as a brand had the ability to remain operational for the community during this time of need.
Hiawatha Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.