Since Monday, nearly 1,800 total positions were eliminated across four major companies — Jetblack, Wayfair, Kohl’s, and Barneys — in retail. These workers join a growing legion of retail employees who continue to be axed en masse from major companies, despite the US unemployment rate reaching a 50-year low in 2019.
While the challenges plaguing these companies are nuanced, the cuts represent a wide cross section of the issues affecting both traditional retailers and e-commerce companies alike, as they struggle to keep up with the fickle whims of consumers.
After several quarters of underperforming sales, Kohl’s announced on Wednesday it would slash 250 jobs, including several regional managers, as part of a larger companywide restructuring plan. Though Kohl’s will not close any stores at the time being, the Midwest retailer has significant work to do in order to improve efficiencies and bolster sales, even after testing innovative partnerships like its return program with Amazon.
“I was convinced that [the Amazon] partnership would have brought new potential customers through their doors to return Amazon products, with some portion of those customers spending money in the store on their way out,” Jonathan Treiber, CEO of offer-management platform RevTrax, told Business Insider last year. “However, even if this were true, the rest of the Kohl’s value proposition and store experience needs a face lift.”
Wayfair employees on Thursday received an email from CEO Niraj Shah detailing mass layoffs, part of what staffers have dubbed the “Valentine’s Day massacre.” The cuts will affect 550 employees as part of the company’s focus on “organizational changes” intended to “increase efficiencies,” a Wayfair spokesperson told Business Insider’s Mary Hanbury earlier this week.
In recent years, the company has hemorrhaged money into advertising and improving its inventory selection, investments that have failed to improve the company’s “already wafer-thin margins,” Neil Saunders, the managing director of GlobalData Retail, said previously.
Adding to its woes, in June Wayfair found itself at the center of controversy when customers and employees alike protested the brand for its role in furnishing migrant detention centers.
On Thursday, Walmart announced that it would shutter its exclusive, members-only concierge service Jetblack, coming off a 2019 Wall Street Journal report that found the company was losing a staggering $15,000 per member. The brand was ambitious from the onset, but it garnered significant buzz as the brainchild of former CEO Jenny Fleiss, who also cofounded Rent the Runway.
However, the departure of Fleiss in 2019 signaled that strife was afoot, and it didn’t take long for the company to be crushed by its own zeal. Jet Black will close for good on February 21, at which point Walmart will “focus on how to leverage [its] infrastructure to make conversational commerce scalable,” a spokesperson told Business Insider’s Áine Cain.
After months of hanging by a thread, Barneys announced it would officially close its doors on February 23, marking the end of an era for the iconic luxury department store. The shuttering will effectively entail laying off more than 700 employees, many of whom had already experienced a barrage of difficulties during the liquidation period, including rampant theft and paycheck delays.
Since Barneys first filed for bankruptcy in August 2019, its most loyal fans held on hope for a possible restructuring deal that would save the company. However, its acquisition by Authentic Brands Group in November marked the beginning of the end for Barneys. ABG subsequently called for the closure of all remaining Barneys stores and moved licensing of the Barneys name under Saks Fifth Avenue.