Express Store

Emotions ran high at Express Inc. on Tuesday, when the specialty chain laid off 10 percent of its workforce at the Columbus, Ohio headquarters and the New York design studio, WWD learned.

While confirming that layoffs were triggered, the company did not disclose how many workers lost their jobs. The company has approximately 5,200 full-time workers. The cutbacks at Express follows those recently revealed at Bloomingdale’s. Macy’s, which like Bloomingdale’s is a division of Macy’s Inc., is also expected to soon disclose a restructuring. It’s not unusual for retailers to make organizational and store fleet changes in the aftermath of the holiday selling season.

Sources told WWD that the job losses were across the board in design, merchandising, marketing and production, and at various levels.

Express called the cutback “a restructuring of its corporate workforce to align its organization with the company’s go-forward strategy.”

“When I joined Express, I outlined three priorities: changing the trajectory of the business, developing a corporate strategy, and putting the right team in place,” Tim Baxter, chief executive officer, said in a statement Tuesday. “We have spent the past six months developing a strategy with the intent to return Express to long-term growth and a midsingle-digit operating margin. Today, we took the necessary steps to put the right organization in place to support that strategy. I would like to personally thank all of the impacted associates for their contributions to Express.”

The restructure impacts positions in the company’s Columbus, Ohio headquarters and its design studio in New York City. In addition, the field leadership team is being reorganized “to ensure the stores are operating in the most efficient manner while enhancing the level of service offered to Express customers,” the company indicated.

Express is providing impacted associates with severance pay and benefits continuation.

Sources told WWD that some jobs will be phased out over time; other jobs were immediately eliminated and workers were escorted out of the New York office.

One source said certain categories are being consolidated, noting that woven tops and knit tops are combining into total tops. “Many senior team members who have great reputations were shockingly eliminated, too,” said the source.

The $2 billion Express, which operates a total of about 600 stores and outlets and a web site, sells apparel and accessories for young women and men for work, casualwear and going-out occasions.

Business has been challenging at the company, which reported a $3.1 million loss for the third quarter ended Nov. 3, amid a 5 percent decline in comparable sales.

Baxter, who has been ceo of Express since June, will discuss new strategies, fleet optimization and cost savings at an investor event scheduled for Jan. 22. Baxter was previously ceo of Delta Galil Premium Brands, and before that, Macy’s chief merchandising officer.

Last month, when the company reported its third-quarter numbers, Baxter said, “While we are certainly not satisfied with our results, sequential improvement over the last two quarters, and throughout the third quarter, is compelling evidence that the immediate changes we have been able to make to our product, merchandising and marketing approach are resonating with customers. While the path forward will not be without its challenges, I am confident and optimistic.”

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