Workforce cut as Bassett Furniture prepares for ‘new reality’

Bassett Furniture Industries, Inc., on May 11 announced that the company will cut 25 percent of its workforce and extend the furlough of another 42 percent until May 31 in response to the economic impacts of the coronavirus.

The reduction in permanent workforce amounts to approximately 600 employees according to the company’s press release.

Senior Vice President J. Michael Daniel said that most of the cuts will not be in the Henry County area.

Before the staff cuts, Daniel said that Bassett Furniture employed roughly “2,500 employees,” which will leave about 1,900 following the most recent layoffs.

During the furlough period, the company will also continue to provide health care benefits to those waiting to return to work.

“Bassett’s wholesale revenue from March 23rd through the end of April declined by more than 80 percent,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rob Spillman said. Accordingly, the announced “permanent downsizing of a large portion of our workforce and the extension of previously communicated furloughs reflects the new reality in which we must operate. These decisions were made regretfully but with the long-term survival of the company in mind. It is our hope that as our business improves, we will be able to return a significant number of our furloughed associates to their former positions and to our payroll.”

In addition to the workforce reductions and furloughs, Bassett Furniture is also closing the Grand Prairie, Texas, upholstery manufacturing operation. Production will instead shift to the manufacturing location in Newton, North Carolina.

The company has reopened 43 of its 66 corporate-owned stores, six of which are open to customers by appointment only. Another 19 stores are expected to open by the week of May 18, with the remaining four stores, located in Maryland and New Jersey, barred from reopening until state and local authorities permit.

During their halt in business, Spillman said that the company made a close self-examination.

“While we remain committed to our signature custom capabilities, we acknowledge that this form of selling becomes compromised when our fleet of brick and mortar retail stores is forced to close,” he said. “Furthermore, we believe that the omnipresent migration to digital commerce accelerated during this highly unusual period of ‘stay at home’ behavior. We are therefore working to streamline our custom offerings and the manner in which they are presented on the web with the intention of generating more e-commerce and store sales alike.”

When asked if increased online operations would negatively impact the storefronts, Daniel said that the push is so people can shop at either option.

“So you don’t really care if you cannibalize a particular store, as long as you are making it up in commerce,” he said. “The idea is to make it where you really don’t care if you shop online or in person. If you see something online and want to visit the store in person, you can do that. If you see something while visiting the stores and decide that you want to purchase it after you get home, you can do that as well.”

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