Rite Aid is expanding its distribution center in Des Moines and hiring about 50 more employees for the facility. COURTESY PHOTO, Rite Aid

Rite Aid is expanding its distribution center in Des Moines and hiring about 50 more employees for the facility. COURTESY PHOTO, Rite Aid

Rite Aid expands Des Moines distribution center despite store closures

Company closing distribution center in Oregon; shifting operations to Washington

Despite closing Rite Aid stores in Washington and across the nation, the company announced last week plans to expand its 266,000-square-foot distribution center in Des Moines and that it will hire approximately 50 warehouse workers.

Rite Aid, based in Philadelphia and which also operates Bartell Drugs, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October to restructure the company. The filing included plans to close 154 locations in the nation, with 11 of those in Washington. A Bartell Drugs on South 216th Street and Pacific Highway South in Des Moines closed in the fall.

“Throughout this process, we have remained focused on operating our business – and this includes constantly improving how we run our business, support our vendor and supplier relationships, and continue serving our customers across our retail and online platforms,” a Rite Aid spokesperson told the Kent Reporter in a Nov. 30 email when asked about the facility’s expansion.

“Our newly renovated distribution center, which is now equipped with new technology, will help ensure greater productivity and faster output as we continue delivering leading health care products and services that improve the health outcomes of the nearly one million customers we serve every day,” according to the spokesperson.

What the spokesperson didn’t reveal is Rite Aid plans to close a distribution center in Wilsonville, Oregon in April 2024, resulting in the loss of 136 jobs, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act filed Oct. 8, 2023 by the company with the state of Oregon Dislocated Worker Unit. The operations will transfer to the Des Moines facility, according to a Nov. 7 article on supplychaindive.com.

“After conducting a comprehensive analysis of our distribution network, we’ve made the difficult but necessary business decision to close our Wilsonville, Ore., Distribution Center, and transition operations to our Des Moines, Wash., Distribution Center to best support our stores and ensure greater efficiencies,” a Rite Aid spokesperson told Supply Chain Dive in an email.

Rite Aid has more than 1,900 stores nationwide, according to the company. Kent has two Rite Aid stores on the East Hill. The only Bartell Drugs in Kent along Kent-Kangley Road closed in November. Des Moines still has one Bartell location at 27055 Pacific Highway S.

“There are no plans to close these locations at this time,” according to the company spokesperson about the two Rite-Aid stores in Kent and one Bartell Drugs in Des Moines.

The distribution warehouse is at 21202 24th Ave. S. The expansion includes a modern design and technology that will serve 250 additional Rite Aid stores across Washington, Oregon and Idaho, beginning January 2024.

The renovation includes floor-to-ceiling, state-of-the-art technology, an automated goods-to-person solution that delivers items right to associate workstations for greater productivity and faster output, according to Rite Aid. Renovations also include fully upgraded office spaces, breakrooms, conference areas and locker rooms that showcase a clean, modern design.

“The Des Moines facility is an integral part of our distribution network, and we’re now better equipped to execute with greater speed, agility and effectiveness that will position us for long-term success,” said Ron Gilbert, a Rite Aid Supply Chain senior vice president, in a Nov. 29 media release.

The new warehouse production positions include pickers, receivers, sorters and maintenance engineers. More than 100 full-time employees currently operate the facility.

Hourly rates for a maintenance engineer range from $25 to $32 per hour, a receiving lead pays $22.86 per hour, according to the Rite Aid careers website at https://careers.riteaid.com/rite_aid_jobs.

“We have had a presence in the Des Moines community for the last seven years, and we’re excited for the opportunity to help generate more local jobs that offer a comprehensive benefits package and collaborative work environment,” said Jason Hudgins, a Rite Aid Human Resources manager.

The company plans an open house for perspective employees at the Des Moines distribution center on Friday, Dec. 12 and Saturday, Dec. 13. Session 1 each day is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. while session 2 each day is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Candidates can tour the facility with various leaders and interview onsite.

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