The Biggest Retail Layoffs of 2020

Samantha McDonald
·7 min read

When the COVID-19 health crisis touched down in the United States, government-imposed lockdowns led to the widespread closures of nonessential businesses as well as warehouses and offices across the country. Scores of retailers subsequently made the difficult decision of furloughing and laying off employees. Separately, others had already been planning mass job cuts as part of previously announced restructuring and reorganization moves. Here, FN rounds up the biggest retail layoffs of 2020.

Clarks

Announced: May 21

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Jobs affected: Approximately 900 corporate roles around the world

What they said: “There are exciting opportunities ahead for our business, and we are having to make some difficult decisions to get there,” CEO Giorgio Presca said. “We thank all affected staff for their contribution to our business and they leave their roles with our heartfelt respect and support.”

Debenhams

Announced: Aug. 11

Jobs affected: About 2,500 roles, or 17% of its 14,500 staff in the United Kingdom, across its department stores and warehouses

What they said: “The trading environment is clearly a long way from returning to normal, and we have to ensure our store costs are aligned with realistic expectations,” the company said in a statement. “Such difficult decisions are being taken by many retailers right now, and we will continue to take all necessary steps to give Debenhams every chance of a viable future.”

Designer Brands

Announced: July 30

Jobs affected: More than 1,000 roles, representing 8% of its North America associate positions

What they said: “We are making essential changes to how we operate in light of COVID-19 and the accompanying business needs,” DBI CEO Roger Rawlins said. “As a result, we are reducing and reassigning a portion of our workforce.” The company shared that it would save about $40 million annually as a result of the actions.

JCPenney

Announced: July 15

Jobs affected: About 1,000 jobs

What they said: “The global health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has forced retailers to make difficult decisions. For JCPenney, that includes reducing our footprint and accelerating our store optimization strategy while we implement our plan for renewal,” CEO Jill Soltau said. “As the retail landscape continues to evolve, we will continue to make thoughtful and strategic choices… to ensure that JCPenney remains at the heart of America’s communities for decades to come.”

Kohl’s

Announced: Sept. 15

Jobs affected: About 15% of corporate positions

What they said: In an SEC filing, the company announced that the reduction is expected to save it roughly $65 million in annual expenses. It added that it’s likely to record pre-tax costs of approximately $23 million — the majority of which will be logged in the third quarter of the 2020 fiscal year.

Macy’s

Announced: June 25

Jobs affected: Approximately 3,900 corporate and management positions, or 3% of its total workforce

What they said: “COVID-19 has significantly impacted our business. While the reopening of our stores is going well, we do anticipate a gradual recovery of business, and we are taking action to align our cost base with our anticipated lower sales,” said chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette. “These were hard decisions as they impact many of our colleagues.”

Neiman Marcus

Announced: March 11

Jobs affected: About 500 positions within Last Call and 250 non-selling associates across all stores

What they said: “This is not a reaction to anything happening in the economy now,” explained CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck. “It’s a strategic decision to redeploy resources.”

Nike

Announced: July 30

Jobs affected: 500 employees at its Beaverton, Ore., headquarters, plus 192 employees who work at its two childcare centers

What they said: “We are shifting our childcare strategy and launching a new benefit available to a greater number of teammates — not only at world headquarters, but also across the U.S.,” the company said in a statement. “We are expanding our childcare benefit from hundreds to thousands of employees, including, for the first time, our teammates in retail, distribution centers and air manufacturing innovation. This shift means we made the difficult decision to close the Nike Child Development centers and say goodbye to our faculty and staff.”

Nordstrom

Announced: July 2

Jobs affected: Unspecified; a Seattle Times report suggested that the chain had cut 6,000 jobs across the country

What they said: “We’re realigning and reducing our workforce to support our market strategy, including in our corporate support teams,” a spokesperson said. “These types of decisions are never easy, because we realize the impact it has on our people. We’re committed to taking care of them as best we can during this transition.”

PVH

Announced: July 14

Jobs affected: Approximately 450 positions, or 12%, of its office workforce in North America

What they said: “The structural changes occurring in the North American retail landscape have required us to take a hard look at our North American operations and identify where we can optimize costs across our business model,” said chairman and CEO Manny Chirico. “As a result, we are making the incredibly difficult decisions to close our Heritage Brands Retail business and eliminate a significant number of positions throughout our North American organization to align with the lower revenue base.” The company added that the reductions are expected to result in annual cost savings of approximately $80 million.

Selfridges

Announced: July 28

Jobs affected: Roughly 450 roles, or 14% of its workforce

What they said: “We will lead with care and consideration, we will share our knowledge with responsibility and respect, and it is why we will do everything possible to mitigate the number of redundancies we propose to make,” managing director Anne Pitcher said. “Nobody imagined when we started the year that things would unfold like this and lead us to having to make such momentous decisions.”

Stitch Fix

Announced: June 1

Jobs affected: 1,400 stylists based in California, or 18% of overall headcount

What they said: “Any decision that impacts our hardworking and talented people is incredibly tough, but we believe this is the right thing to do for our business,” founder and CEO Katrina Lake said. “We are committed to supporting our people through this by providing as much financial stability as possible, including severance payments that increase with tenure, bonuses for stylists staying with us during the transition period, extended healthcare and recruitment resources.”

Tapestry

Announced: April 20

Jobs affected: Roughly 2,100 part-time store associates across its Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman brands

What they said: “With the passage of time, we are facing increasing pressure on the financial performance of the business, requiring us to make difficult decisions to ensure that Tapestry and its brands continue to thrive well into the future,” said then-chairman and CEO Jide Zeitlin. “These decisions are balanced with numerous steps to moderate the impact of the current environment on our people.”

Ted Baker

Announced: December 7

Jobs affected: 953 roles across its corporate offices and retail stores

What they said: “This was an extremely hard but necessary decision, and wherever possible we have tried to protect customer-facing roles,” CEO Rachel Osborne said. “I want to thank all my colleagues during this difficult period for their hard work and efforts that have helped to maintain such a strong brand.”

Walmart

Announced: July 30

Jobs affected: 1,241 roles in its Bentonville, Ark., headquarters as well as its Jet.com subsidiary’s offices in Hoboken, N.J.

What they said: “Back in July, we announced a reorganization of our Walmart U.S. business as we focus on becoming an omni-channel organization,” spokesperson Anne Hatfield said. “As a part of taking those difficult steps, some office associates are affected if they are unable to find a different role with the company.”

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