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Retailer of the Year West

New Seasons Markets Boasts Track Record Of Valuing, Supporting Staff

New Seasons Market

New Seasons Market, The Shelby Report of the West’s Retailer of the Year, strives to be the ultimate neighborhood grocery store. This goal is not only for customers but staff as well. 

“We take good care of our staff, and they take good care of our customers. The care our customers feel when they shop in our stores is a direct reflection of New Seasons Market being a progressive employer with a strong track record of valuing and supporting staff,” said Katie Schoen, director of communications. 

Bobby Vaziralli of New Seasons Market
Bobby Vaziralli

Like many grocers, the company strives to hire from the communities it serves. However, unlike many other grocers, New Seasons Market aims to tear down its barriers to employment, reflect minority communities, provide employees with a respectful and balanced working environment and bring training and career development to staff from the top down. 

Diversity, equity and inclusion is one of the company’s top priorities. 

“Just about everything, all the decisions that are made are always looked at through the lens of DEI,” said Bobby Vaziralli, VP of operations. “We look at how it’s going to effect our employees and our communities and the environment, which is amazing.”

In 2020, the company hired Nikotris Perkins as its senior director of DEI following a company-wide audit. This audit conducted employee and consumer interviews as well as focus groups. 

“A lot of conversations were held throughout a lot of avenues,” Perkins said. “One of the things [decided] was ‘we need somebody to think about this work.’ And think about it on a large scale across all stores long term.”

She said the biggest question for the company was, “What does it look like to create a strategy to affect our systems?” That’s where she comes in. 

Nikotris Perkins of New Seasons Market
Nikotris Perkins

Her job weaves in and out of just about every department. Speaking to other companies who might only consider DEI for HR purposes, she says that is not the case at New Seasons Market. 

“I’m very excited that it is not at New Seasons. I do work with everybody. I do spend time with HR because some of the systems, when you think about recruiting or hiring or navigating your career, live in HR. But my job is also supplier diversity…diversity lives in our procurement and logistics. We look at all our suppliers and all our vendors across – because everybody has a different vendor – every department,” Perkins said. 

New Seasons Market’s overall DEI objective for its customers is to create an inclusive shopping experience. Giving examples of the non-inclusive shopping experience, Perkins said they are places where customers “don’t feel welcomed.”

“It’s a place where walking in the door, you immediately don’t feel welcomed, you’re questioned. There’s not a restroom for you to use.”

The inclusive shopping experience creates a feeling of belonging for guests. It helps cultivate a positive image for the grocer while at the same time driving more customers to the store. 

“When you’re thinking about a grocer, and they don’t have the ingredients you are looking for, you might end up going to four or five stores for those things … They know we will have the things they need.”

The company also aims to hire diversely throughout its markets and prides itself on celebrating a respectful workplace for all. 

“Our staff comes from all backgrounds, which is why we’re a champion for social issues affecting them and our communities,” the website reads. 

New Seasons Market has previously campaigned for marriage equality and workplace protections for LGBTQIA+ employees, minimum wage increases, fair workweek regulations, paid parental and medical leave and affordable housing. 

It has also been recognized for its workplace policies regarding transgender individuals and its support of employees with disabilities. It has longstanding relationships with employment equality groups such as Basic Rights Oregon, the Urban League and the Portland Citizen’s Disability Advisory Committee, just to name a few. 

“Anybody can work here,” Perkins said. “It feels more friendly because everybody is welcome.”

Creating an open working environment is key to creating a place where people want to work. Associates are regularly given the opportunity to voice their opinions on how to improve New Seasons Market. 

“Spending time understanding from staff leads us to things we could do in terms of our systems…We’re trying to figure out how you can get the most out of your job, providing information, helping develop training, doing the training and helping us think through things.”

This is known as the company’s Speak Up culture. Every person at New Seasons Market is encouraged to share ideas, concerns and have a voice. 

“Staff are empowered to share feedback and be involved in decisions that affect them,” Schoen said.

The company encourages a work/life balance. Staff members are scheduled to work no more than five days in a row, with at least two consecutive days off and at least 12 hours of rest between shifts. The unique “Lifestyle Scheduling” policy has been in place since the company’s founding, according to its website. 

Greg Broadwater of New Seasons Market
Greg Broadwater

“That’s one of the gifts of being here,” said Store Manager Nicole Heiden. “The work/life balance does not look like what other retailer environments look like.” 

New Seasons Market does not have a set uniform for its store workers. Associates are told to be “their authentic self,” according to Greg Broadwater, senior director, marketing. 

“Our staff are really encouraged to bring their personalities, their whole selves, their authentic self. Even through the way they dress and their overall appearance,” Broadwater said. 

Customers can still identify associates who wear a New Seasons Market apron and a wooden name badge. 

The company has recently begun exploring performance management alongside new hiring practices. Like other grocers, maintaining a full workforce has been difficult for New Season Market. Nevertheless, the brand considers DEI even during recruitment. 

“Once you get people, awesome. How can we keep all the people we get? People look at very different sites for jobs based on things like age and race. It’s very interesting. The top 10 recruiting sites continue to change. So, when you think about hiring a diverse workforce, how can we tap into the places that ensure that as many people as possible are seeing that? People need to have full control of what it looks like to build a team for themselves and for the work that they do in the company,” Perkins said.

Speaking about the importance of DEI in a company, she said building a diverse team also invites a diverse set of ideas.

“Having a diverse group of people at any store location brings diverse ideas…you get better ideas. You get better decision making. You get better creativity and innovation when you have a diverse team.”

The company evaluates its team makeup. New Seasons Markets are more appealing to consumers and potential workers when they see themselves behind the counter. 

“If there is a team that we’ve noticed that is completely homogenous, like a team that is always 33-35-year-old women who grew up in Portland, we want to know why that’s happening there. The reality is that people are hiring people that look, think, could be you…you’re hiring yourself.

“What about the people who don’t look like you but can do the job? And would that make this team be able to come up with something you’ve never come up with before,” Perkins said. 

To keep employees, the company offers a comprehensive pay and benefits package. As an example, the starting wage in the Portland region is $16.25 per hour, which is higher than the state’s minimum wage. It also offers a healthcare plan with coverage that includes naturopathic, chiropractic and acupuncture services alongside traditional dental and vision benefits. 

Employees are also given two weeks a year of PTO, which increases based on the number of years of service. It also offers paid parental leave and a 401(k) program, a 50 percent discount on public transit passes and a 30 percent discount on most items in the store. 

Read more from The Shelby Report’s Retailer of the Year sections.

About the author

Sommer Stockton

Web Editor

Sommer joined The Shelby Report in January 2022 after graduating from Brenau University in Gainesville, GA with a B.A. and M.A. in Communications and Media Studies. Sommer is excited to learn about the grocery industry and share her findings with The Shelby Report's readers!

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