The list of retailers laying off their store employees — call it firing or call it furloughs, the effect is the same — keeps growing. This week TJX and Ross, the two giants of off-price retailing — and both without any e-commerce to speak of — both announced layoffs of virtually their entire workforces. The latest layoffs were just announced by Dick’s, the sporting goods chain. That added close to 350,000 jobs eliminated to the running total at retail, bringing it to over one million.
After a short period of wildly unrealistic forecasts, tragically fronted by a president more interested in his polling numbers than the real statistics from health professionals, the retail industry – like most others in the country – is coming to grips with the reality of the coronavirus business shutdown. More than 150 retailing companies have shut down their entire physical store fleets and some their e-com operations as well.
Many of the unemployed retail workers have reasonable expectations that they will be able to return to their jobs once the pandemic subsides but the specifics are more disturbing. At least some of the retailers who have shut will not reopen, forced into liquidation by the crisis. Others will put into place significant downsizings, both in total store numbers and workforces. And the accelerated shift to online shopping that is expected to be a prime byproduct of this situation will likely mean more jobs in retailing migrating to distribution centers and customer service centers rather than physical selling floors.
While the distinction between layoffs and furloughs is a fine point, the former essentially means the person been fired and will not necessarily have a job when stores reopen. Furloughs imply that this is temporary and the affected person can return to work when the crisis passes. In many cases, the company is continuing to pay for health care for furloughed workers as well.
At least two retailers, Williams Sonoma and Best Buy, are bucking the trend, saying they will continue to pay their employees: the former for the duration of its closings and the latter for two weeks through April 18. Best Buy said it would even be giving bonuses and raises to employees who manned the skeleton staffs at its stores which are offering curbside pick-ups.
One interesting twist on the retail worker picture is something that Neiman Marcus is doing. The company’s stores are closed through at least the end of April and most of its 14,000 employees are out of work. It has said it created what it calls “partnerships” with other retailers who are open and hiring, stores like CVS, Kroger, Costco, Target, Home Depot and Lowe’s, sending its furloughed workers to them at least on a temporary basis. It’s a noble effort even if the mechanics of a Bergdorf’s fine jewelry salesperson working the lumber department at Depot would seem to have some flaws.
And it should be noted that many retail CEOs and C-level executives are taking pay cuts or even working without pay at the same time they are laying off staffs. Most retailers have also suspended paying dividends and stock buybacks.
Here is a list of the retailers who have cut back their workforces due to the coronavirus along with layoffs and furloughs from actual announced numbers or estimates based on the company’s total employee count. It will be updated as more information is gathered.
Ascena Retail: 31,000 (Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant)
At Home: 52,000
Bed Bath & Beyond: 60,000 (World Market Cost Plus, Christmas Tree)
Best Buy: 51,000
Guitar Center: 9,000
JC Penney: 80,000
L Brands 57,000 (Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works)
Neiman Marcus: 13,000
Ross Dress for Less: 86,000
Tailored Brands: 17,000 (Men’s Warehouse, Jos A. Bank)
TJX: 285,000 (TJMaxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods)
Under Armour: 6,000
Urban Outfitters: 15,000 (Anthropologie, Free People)