This summer, Gage Thurston ’17 is interning in Scarborough at Hannaford’s Corporate Office in the retail operations department.
The internship focuses on the Eastern division, which includes all of the Maine and New Hampshire Hannaford retail stores, says the Thomas Communications student.
“My project this summer is looking at staff and retention of the stores. This mostly focuses on the associates – so the people you see every day at check out, stocking shelves, loading produce and more,” she said. “My job is to figure out what makes people come to work for Hannaford, what keeps them working at Hannaford, and what are some areas of improvement?”
To figure it out, Thurston traveled to nine Hannaford stores the Greater Portland area, and interviewed the store managers and the associate relationship managers (ARM). The ARMS do all of the recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, training and payroll.
“I came up with a list of about 13 questions and I asked the store managers and the ARMs their opinion on where they see staffing needs, where they see the most turnover, and how to incentivize those positions so people want to stay.”
She was even able to partner up with another intern to interview associates directly as well to get their take on working for Hannaford. Thurston then compiled this information for her superiors to use for possible changes.
“We want to make Hannaford the preferable employer, because unfortunately the grocery chain business doesn’t appear to be luxurious,” she said. “But one thing that our associates and people coming from the outside don’t know is how much growth there is.”
For example, Thurston said, the Senior Vice President of Retail Operations, just celebrated his 40th year of work at Hannaford last year. He started working for a Hannaford store as a bagger when he was 16-years-old.
“A lot of people have that kind of story. They start as a bagger or cashier when they are in high school and then they go up the ranks. Or they start as an intern or a Retail Management Trainee and then they have all of these opportunities,” she said. “Because you don’t have to just work in retail. People don’t know that there are all of these other opportunities in the office: supply chain, merchandising, category analyzing, consumer relations, public relations.”
Thurston, who is from Yarmouth, has been very involved during her time at Thomas College.
She will be the President of the FBLA-PBL branch on campus for the second year in a row where her and 15 other members provide finals survival bags for students, help with leadership development on campus and honor thriving academic students each month with their Professional Terrier of the Month campaign.
During the school year she also works two jobs while going to school full-time. Thurston works about 12 hours per week at the Alfond Athletic Center on campus and about 20 hours per week at Aroma Joe’s on KMD in Waterville.
Thurston said she chose Thomas because her sister, Read Thurston ’15, MBA ‘16, was a current student at Thomas at the time, and it was affordable.
Thurston said she is really enjoying her first internship.
“What I like the most about it is getting to interact with the people that you see every day at the stores and understanding the grocery business as a whole,” she said. “Before I started working here, I just went to Hannaford, picked up what I needed and left. The operational side of it is so much more than we think.”
She is taking advantage of working in such a big office, where she can go around and ask people how they got where they were and why they chose their careers.
Thurston said she would love to work at Hannaford again after graduation in May.