Shoppers Food and Pharmacy has begun closing all pharmacies in its Baltimore and Washington area supermarkets.
The parent of Shoppers, which has 36 stores in the region, announced the pharmacy closures earlier this month to employees and the union representing workers. The chain’s 30 pharmacies were to start closing Tuesday and will continue to be shut down on a staggered basis.
A spokesman for the parent company, United Natural Foods Inc., did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
The company said it planned no layoffs of its pharmacy technicians, said Jonathan Williams, a spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, which represents Shoppers’ pharmacy technicians as well as its non-managerial grocery workers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and in Virginia — about 1,700 employees. UFCW Local 27 represents workers in those positions in the Baltimore area.
“Our concern is obviously with our members who work in those pharmacies, and the company has assured us they were to be transferred to clerk [jobs] in the grocery stores with no loss of pay,” Williams said Wednesday.
Executives with Providence, R.I.-based UNFI have said they plan to sell the grocery chain this year as part of a strategy to divest retail chains and focus on wholesale business. UNFI bought Shoppers’ previous parent company, Supervalu, last year for $2.9 billion.
UNFI CEO Steve Spinner said in March that the company is “well down the path on selling Shoppers,” and that he expected a sale to be completed in coming months.
Shoppers has 16 stores in the Baltimore metro area, including one at Mondawmin Mall, which lost mall anchor Target more than a year ago.
Mike Wilken, an UNFI spokesman, told The Sun last month that the company has “no immediate plans for any Shoppers stores to close,” but that the company is making progress on plans to sell retail operations.
In a post on a UFCW union website April 11, union leaders said they were told that as part of the pharmacy closures prescriptions at 24 stores would be transferred to CVS, while prescriptions at six stores would be moved to Walgreens. The company told union leaders that it has “no immediate plans” to close any Shoppers stores.
“This is a frustrating situation for everyone involved, and the lack of information has only made things worse,” said a joint statement of Locals 400 and Local 27.
The pharmacy closures were reported Wednesday by the Washington Business Journal.
The union has not been given any further updates, Williams said.
“We’ve been demanding information from the company for many months and have not gotten anything definite,” he said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Phil Davis contributed to this article.