Inflation does not stop job creation in the food sector. Although at a different pace, the large supermarket chains are keeping their expansion plans alive, and consequently, they continue to increase the size of their workforces. They do so after a year of record sales as a result of rising prices and despite the fact that the different players point to a slowdown in demand from consumers, who are already changing their purchasing strategies to try to contain spending.
The latest data presented by Nielsen IQ and AECOC, the distribution employer, point to a drop in purchase volumes of 2%, although most manufacturers and distributors raise the possibility that this drop will continue to grow up to 5%. In any case, the high levels of inflation continue to offset the drop in sales, leaving behind an accumulated growth of 11.3% in value added for the sector so far this year.
According to data provided by Asedas, the association that brings together the interests of large chains as operators, with another 47,500 jobs in the hands of cooperatives or franchises. For its part, wholesale distribution employs 2,100 people in the cash&carry activity alone.
In addition, this employment is stable -with close to 90% permanent permanent-; it relies on the local and proximity; It is increasingly egalitarian and inclusive —70% of the employees are women, they represent 40% of the directives and all the companies have inclusion plans related to attention to diversity. To this we must add the increasing specialization and diversification of profiles in the different spaces where the chains operate, both in stores and in warehouses, digital platforms or administration, expanding towards new trends such as the circular economy or digitization.
Mercadona, on the verge of 100,000 employees
The leading supermarket in Spain, Mercadona, created 3,000 additional jobs in 2022 and is already close to 100,000 (99,000 at the end of the year). The opening of new stores —a process in extinction considering that they are already reaching its maximum— or the launch of new sections such as ready-to-eat products have boosted hiring in Juan Roig’s company, which also does not stop hiring highly qualified profiles for its subsidiary Mercadona Tech.
For its part, the second chain with the largest presence in Spain, Carrefour, has just turned 50 in the country in full transition to a new business model. With it, it seeks to integrate the 205 hypermarkets and 160 “supermarkets” with the more than a thousand Carrefour Express stores that it has throughout the national territory, complemented by its new brand Supeco, which continues to expand and now has 55 stores. At the end of 2021 (latest data available) it had 58,500 employees, with another 2,700 having grown in the middle of the pandemic year.
The discounted supermarkets are hiring
The Germans Aldi and Lidl are the great beneficiaries of the inflationary moment due to the predisposition of consumers to opt for discount supermarkets. And they are also the ones that register the highest annual increases in terms of their number of employees. The first account today with 6,900 employees in Spain, 800 of them incorporated in the last year (+14% annual) and 2,500 beginning since 2020.
The opening of 100 establishments throughout the country in the last two years and the forecast of adding another fifty this year will continue to boost the hiring of personnel. This is not limited to stores, as it also requires new employees both in the administrative area and for its network of distribution centers, currently expanding.
Lidl, for its part, has a workforce of more than 17,500 people who work in its 650 stores and 11 logistics platforms. 41 of them, opened in 2022 together with a dozen renovations, allowed the creation of 810 new jobs last year. This figure will continue to grow in line with its opening plan, including four large logistics centers.
Alcampo Adds 3,000 Dia employees
Alcampo, which in 2022 opened 23 new stores (9 owned and 14 franchised) to reach 235 throughout the country. It closed last year with 600 more employees than the previous one, reaching 20,200, but this figure will exceed 23,000 by the end of this year, as a result of the sale process of 24 supermarkets and two logistics warehouses that until now were in the hands of Dia. In this way, the subsidiary of the French group Auchan will double its sales force to reach a total of 539 establishments, 131 franchised.
Día is precisely the only brand that will see its number of employees reduced this year. The agreed operation entails the transfer of 3,300 employees, who will gradually join Alcampo as these centers are transferred. With this agreement, Día will reduce its establishments to figures close to 5,450, 5% less than the 5,699 with which it closed last year —when it already reduced this figure by another 4% compared to the 5,937 it had in 2021—, without counting with the new openings.
The Día data at the end of 2022 showed a total of 33,400 own employees distributed among stores, warehouses and offices. To these must be added another 19,500 in the franchisee network, in a total that is spread over the four countries in which it has a presence: Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil. With the aforementioned sale, the figure at the end of 2023 will continue to be above 30,000 workers, although the company has preferred not to provide figures to questions from this newspaper.