furloughed employees

Pandemic Furloughs Half A Million Retail Workers

Real Estate

Affected Retailers With Rockland Locations Include Macy’s, Kohl’s, Gap, Build-A-Bear

Retail workers livelihoods are under siege as the industry battles the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a hardship befalling a workforce that is already under stress from the downsizing and bankruptcies in retail over the last two years. It’s unclear when stores will be able to reopen or if demand will return when they do. Companies like Macy’s, Kohl’s, Gap and JCPenney have put roughly half a million people, ranging from hourly associates to corporate employees, on furlough this week.

In a show of solidarity, some of these companies have slashed pay for their executives and paused bonuses or raises this year. If there’s some good news for the affected employees, it’s that several of these companies are still providing healthcare.


Build-A-Bear Workshop has announced furloughs for over 90% of its workforce, effective March 29. There’s a Build-A-Bear at Palisades Center. The company’s employees won’t receive direct compensation but will continue to get employee benefits, including medical, dental and vision coverage, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The same day, the company is reducing pay for “nearly all” the employees not on furlough, per the filing. Base salaries for executive officers will be cut 20%. Annual cash retainers for non-employee board members will be eliminated for the first quarter.

The retailer is now unsure about how many stores it will ever re-open, as it takes drastic steps to protect its operations. For now, according to a letter posted by CEO Sharon Price John, it’s taking its cues from health officials. “Our decisions, including those related to store operations, will continue to be guided by experts including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and other government agencies and we look forward to seeing you when our stores are able to reopen,” she said.


Macy’s on Monday said that the measures announced last week to shore up its finances have helped but are “not enough,” so it’s placing most of its workforce on furlough beginning this week. That includes employees in its digital business, distribution centers and call centers, though there will be fewer furloughs in those areas. As of the fourth quarter, Macy’s reported 125,000 employees.

At least through May, furloughed employees with health benefits will continue to receive coverage, with Macy’s covering the entire premium. “We expect to bring colleagues back on a staggered basis as business resumes,” per a company press release.

All Macy’s stores “have been closed since March 18th and will remain closed until we have clear line of sight on when it is safe to reopen,” the company also said. As of the fourth quarter, Macy’s had 775 stores.


The owner of Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant announced Monday it made the “extremely difficult decision” to furlough all of its store associates and half of its corporate employees. That amounts to roughly 40,000 employees, according to figures from a regulatory filing. Ascena’s (ASNA) remaining corporate employees will have their salaries reduced by as much as 45%.


Gap (GPS), which owns Old Navy and Athleta, said Tuesday it was putting 80,000 store employees and some of its corporate employees on furlough.The company also said in a press release that Gap executives and its board are taking a “temporary reduction in pay,” although it declined to say how much.

The department store said in a statement Tuesday that it has made the “difficult decision to temporarily furlough the majority of store hourly associates.” JCPenney (JCP) also said that a “significant portion” of its corporate employees will be placed on leave. It had about 90,000 employees as of February 1.


Discount department store Kohl’s (KSS) said Monday it was furloughing workers at its stores and distribution centers, as well as some corporate employees. That amounts to roughly 85,000 employees, according to a spokesperson. Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass isn’t taking a salary for the time being.


Some 14,000 employees at the luxury department stores are being placed on furlough. CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck said he’s not taking his salary while employees are on furlough, and his direct reports are also waiving a “significant amount” of their salaries.


Urban Outfitters (URBN) said Tuesday that a “substantial number of store, wholesale and home office employees” will be put on furlough. It’s also not paying rent and is canceling new store openings.

Urban Outfitters, which also owns Free People and Anthropologie, has roughly 24,000 employees according to regulatory filing.

“This is the first time in our 50-year history we have furloughed employees,” CEO Richard Hayne said in a release. “It’s a painful decision that we do reluctantly.”