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New Hampshire Grocery Industry Gets Creative With Employee Shortages

New Hampshire
Kevin Daigle

As a whole, New Hampshire had a good year economically in 2023, providing a healthy runway for 2024, according to Kevin Daigle, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Grocers Association. He said the state’s workforce returned to pre-pandemic levels, and population growth continues to outpace the New England region.

“Unemployment remains low and economic growth is strong. The low unemployment rate is kind of a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that we have a strong labor market, the bad news being a challenge for our businesses who are trying to hire,” Daigle said. 

“For our industry, inflation has slowed, and we are hearing that workforce issues have improved, with more stores at or nearer to being fully staffed.”

According to Daigle, the grocery industry in the state continues to be healthy, with a good mix of chain and independent operators “providing competition and choice to offer a wide range of products that their consumers are looking for.”

He added that while labor and supply chain haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels, they have become more manageable. Supply chain disruptions are not as frequent, and when they do occur, there are ample substitutions available.

“On the labor side of things, though ‘help wanted’ signs can still be found on a number of store fronts, it has lessened to a degree. Our members continue to be creative in working with employee shortages by over-scheduling to make up for lost shifts to adjusting the hours of operation to avoid burnout of the current staff,” Daigle said.

He noted that inflation is decreasing, and although grocery prices still remain high, they have stabilized. Some items, such as eggs and vegetables, have seen price drops.

On the issue of retail theft, Daigle said while New Hampshire hasn’t experienced the “large smash-and-grab type crimes seen in larger states, retail theft does occur and impacts our retailers’ bottom line. Each time they find a solution to an issue, thieves get creative and find another way to steal.”

Through loss prevention seminars and periodic updates, the NHGA continues to urge its retailer members to stay aware of scams and systems that thieves are employing so they can prevent these issues before they occur.

Among the biggest challenges for independent grocers in New Hampshire are swipe fees and energy costs. Daigle said the former are one of the biggest expenses independents have outside of payroll, and “skyrocketing” energy costs are continuing to impact NHGA members.

The association offers several resources to assist members in lowering costs, Daigle said. Some of the most utilized programs are NHGA’s credit card discounted processing program and energy savings programs for electric and natural gas. The most popular program continues to be NHGA’s self-insured workers compensation program, with more than two-thirds of the membership participating.

Through its scholarship foundation, the association has provided scholarships to 1,129 students, amounting to more than $1.12 million in aid since 1985.

Legislative news

NHGA is monitoring “the usual and annual” labor, environmental and business issue bills proposed in this year’s legislative session.

Daigle said some of the bills taking most of the association’s time thus far include one mandating that employers pay a worker’s unused earned time when they leave employment, several privacy bills, an alcohol packaging/labeling bill and one that would ban grocers from scanning a driver’s license for age verification.

“We continue to educate the legislature on the impacts of these bills on New Hampshire’s retail food industry and are hopeful that positive outcomes are weeks away with each of these bills,” he said.

NHGA’s annual Government Day is scheduled for April 9 in Concord. This will be the first live event since the pandemic began.

“Our members enjoy the interaction with legislative and regulatory leaders and getting to see their association in action, advocating on their behalf,” Daigle said.

Overall, he said the state’s grocery industry remains strong.

“We work hard to educate our legislature about continuing to be a business-friendly environment for our industry, in addition to the benefits of cross-border sales benefitting members as well as the state.”

Read more market profiles from The Shelby Report.

About the author

Treva Bennett

Senior Content Creator

After 32 years in the newspaper industry, she is enjoying her new career exploring the world of groceries at The Shelby Report.

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