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Most grocery stores offer loyalty programs for customers, giving frequent shoppers special deals, discounts or coupons. But in a new twist, New Seasons Market has rolled out a loyalty program for employees.
The 11-year-old company, announced a plan Monday to reward 1,500 of its 1,750 employees with unit options that could mean extra cash when they leave if New Seasons’ value has increased. A retention program of sorts, the rather unusual plan for a private company doesn’t provide ownership to employees, but rewards veteran workers in an industry known for high turn-over. “We wanted to do something for all of the people who’ve been here helping to make this happen every day,” said Brian Rohter, co-founder of nine-store chain. “The amount of effort and care they have given our customers and each other has really created this company.”
Last December, New Seasons announced equity firm Endeavour Capital had bought a minority share of the company and would help it research an option plan for employees and, possibly, customers. At the same time, Rohter stepped down as the company’s chief executive, yet remained chairman of its board, along with co-founders Stan Amy and Chuck Eggert. Two Endeavour executives, Stephen Babson and Bradaigh Wagner, also are on the board along with Caryn Ellison, a former chief financial officer for the shoe company Crocs, Inc. The founders, Endeavour and a small number of founding employees own the company and will continue to, Rohter said, even with the new option plan. “To be clear, this does not mean that New Seasons Market is suddenly getting another 1,500 owners,” explained a memo distributed to employees on Monday announcing the new benefit. The units, which will vest in five years, must be cashed out when an employee leaves. They could convert to ownership if the company was merged or went public—both scenarios in which units could become shares—but New Seasons has no current plans for that, Rohter said.
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