April 2nd, 2020 – New York
Signet Jewelers has furloughed a number of its employees to cut costs and ensure the long-term sustainability of its business.
“Due to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 and the closure of our stores, we have moved quickly to proactively reduce expenses…to preserve liquidity,” David Bouffard, Signet’s vice president of corporate affairs, told Rapaport News Tuesday. “In addition to many cost-reduction actions we have taken, and will continue to take, we also implemented the temporary furlough of some team members in the field and support centers.”
The jeweler, which operates the Kay, Jared and Zales banners, as well as e-commerce site James Allen, will lay the employees off temporarily while continuing to honor selected health-care packages. Workers will also be able to apply for unemployment during the layoff period.
Last week, Signet closed all its North American stores in response to a government directive to stem the rapid spread of the coronavirus. The company noted it would reopen the stores when the situation allowed.
“The decision to implement furloughs was extremely difficult, and, like all decisions impacting team members, was taken with the utmost care and attention,” Bouffard added. “We believe that making these very difficult decisions now will help us recover quickly, stay healthy, and emerge stronger.”
Signet was one of a number of retailers temporarily laying off employees. Macy’s has implemented furloughs for the “majority” of its workers beginning this week, and will maintain only “the absolute minimum workforce” needed to keep basic operations running. The department-store chain will predominantly keep workers that support its digital business, including those in its distribution and call centers, which serve online customers, it said.
“We’ve already taken measures to maintain financial flexibility…. While these actions have helped, it is not enough,” the company noted.
J.C. Penney, which had already furloughed associates in its supply-chain and logistics centers last month, will now implement further temporary layoffs of the majority of its hourly staff beginning Thursday, it said. The company plans to reduce its corporate workforce next week, with a “significant portion” of its home-office and design-office staff being furloughed. The retailer has also extended store closures, and will reopen in each operating area when it is deemed safe, it said.
“We are making tough, prudent decisions to protect both the safety of our associates and the future of our company,” said J.C. Penney CEO Jill Soltau. “We believe these short-term solutions will have a long-term benefit.”
Both Macy’s and J.C. Penney will continue to provide health benefits to furloughed employees who are eligible, with the companies covering 100% of employee-paid premiums during the layoff period.