Hudson's Bay Co., whose business began during the 17th-century fur trade, confirmed the layoff of 600 employees, previously reported elsewhere. In an email Monday, a company spokesperson confirmed all worked at Hudson's Bay department stores in Canada.
The company, which also runs American department store Saks Fifth Avenue, is not closing any of the stores, an HBC spokesperson said by email. The company's website lists 88 Hudson's Bay stores, all in Canada.
HBC went private about a year ago as losses widened at its namesake store, where, according to a statement released Tuesday, almost half of locations are temporarily closed due to the pandemic.
In its statement Tuesday, Hudson's Bay Co. slammed officials' decisions to lock down stores in some areas — a move meant to stem the spread of COVID-19.
"The pandemic continues to have a significant impact on non-essential retailers, including the temporary closure of our stores in some provinces," the statement reads. "Despite the Ontario Superior Court questioning the wisdom and efficacy of the lockdown rules governing non-essential retailers, nearly half our stores remain temporarily closed. Due to these circumstances beyond our control, the company has had to make adjustments which has resulted in a reduction in workforce."
Keeping a store open does provide some lift to sales, but many shoppers, wary of the contagion, continue to avoid stores and malls anyway. And North American consumers were increasingly avoiding department stores and malls even before the pandemic, preferring to save time and money by frequenting smaller strip centers or the internet.
On Tuesday, the company said it "was an incredibly tough decision and we regret the impact this has had on our associates. HBC is committed to treating each individual affected with fairness and respect during these difficult times."
Amid several other changes to its holdings, HBC has left much of its Canadian department store fleet intact. Two years ago, the company shut down its Home Outfitters furniture stores and folded them into Hudson's Bay stores. In recent years, the company sold off U.S. department store Lord & Taylor (which has since gone bankrupt), its holdings in Europe and flash sale site Gilt. Otherwise, much of its investment has gone to Saks, whose New York City flagship underwent a $250 million renovation, although that banner has also been downsized in terms of footprint and workforce.