SANTA CLARITA ( — The Haggen grocery chain is laying off employees and appears to be struggling as it expands into Southern California.

The Pacific Northwest chain recently took over 80 Albertsons and Vons stores in the Southland.

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“You can imagine the growing pains of taking systems that they’ve built over 80 years, that got them to 18 stores, then suddenly going from 18 to 164,” said Kyle Mayer, a professor of strategy with the USC Marshall School of Business.

Mayer says Haggen bought too many stores too quickly.

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“Bad first impression, not much marketing, and let’s not neglect the fact that Southern California is a brutally competitive grocery store area,” he said.

Bill Shaner, Haggen’s CEO, Pacific Southwest, released the following statement:

“As we introduce Haggen throughout Southern California, Arizona and Nevada, our challenge is to establish and grow the brand in competitive new markets. To ensure we’re operating as efficiently as possible, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily cut back on staffing at our stores, with specific reductions varying by store. We value the contributions these employees have made and are committed to treating all employees respectfully and professionally through this transition. Our focus moving forward is to continue to bring the complete Haggen experience to our stores – offering fresh, locally sourced products alongside everyday big brands – and establishing ourselves in the competitive grocery space.”

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“If they can get people to realize what they have,” Mayer said, “then I think they have a chance.”