Belk’s Pandemic-Induced Furloughs Turn Into Layoffs

Belk’s furloughs have turned into an unspecified number of layoffs as the coronavirus pandemic continues to slam its business.

The department store chain confirmed today that it made the “difficult” decision to eliminate “a number of positions,” primarily at its corporate office in Charlotte, N.C., last week. It said it would provide severance packages and outplacement services to affected employees.

“In order to weather the impacts of COVID-19, Belk has had to make some of the most difficult decisions of its 130-year history,” a spokesperson wrote in an email to FN. “The extended effects of the pandemic have necessitated the development of dramatic operational efficiencies.”

In late March, Belk placed a “large” portion of its store associates on furlough. Its entire brick-and-mortar fleet was temporarily shuttered over a period of six weeks in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has sickened more than 3.01 million people in the United States and led to 131,600 deaths.

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As state and local governments continue to ease lockdown restrictions, the retailer has begun “incrementally returning” the remaining furloughed corporate workers to their offices through August. It did not specify the number of employees who would be coming back to work and did not indicate whether it would make further job cuts.

“Our associates have demonstrated unbelievable resiliency, adaptability and flexibility in the face of extreme change, and we are grateful for their support and dedication,” the spokesperson added. “We remain deeply committed to serving our associates, our customers and our communities.”

The retail sector has been among the hardest-hit industries by the coronavirus outbreak. Scores of department stores, specialty shops and other boutiques shut down their doors for weeks, leaving many nonessential employers to terminate or furlough their employees. Although many workers are gradually expected to return to their posts as authorities loosen stay-at-home orders, experts have pointed out that it will likely take years for the economy to recover from the tens of millions of jobs lost during the pandemic.

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