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Restructuring brings layoffs at Walmart, Glossier, Allbirds

Workforce reductions come as job openings fall to nine-month low.

several Glossier cosmetic soft-tubes on square white wooden framed clear glass-top end table beside wall socket inside well lighted room
Glossier is restructuring for wholesale and retail. (Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash)

It’s been a year of shifts for brands and retailers, from coping with supply chain challenges to iOS 14.5 to a return to more in-person shopping to inflation raising costs and prices. Factor in a stock market downturn for many pandemic high-flyers and interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve, and it’s a recipe for a shakeout.

This week’s sign of how changes are impacting individual companies came in the form of layoffs at several of the most notable names in ecommerce and retail. Here’s a quick recap:

Glossier

Beauty brand Glossier is undergoing a restructuring as it transitions to an omnichannel strategy that adds wholesale and more of its own in-person retail shops on top of its vaunted digital direct-to-consumer business. Last week, Glossier signed its first wholesale partnership with Sephora, and announced expansion plans for new retail stores, including a location that opened in DC on Friday.

With this shift, the beauty brand laid off about two dozen people, Modern Retail first reported this week. At the same time, the brand is hiring for retail, product, supply chain and wholesale distribution. The focus of the restructuring is to align “structure, scale and talent" with the new strategy, the company wrote in a letter.

This comes after the company laid off about 80 people in January as it ended plans to build out its own tech platform. The latest changes are being made under new CEO Kyle Leahy, who stepped into the leadership spot in June after founder Emily Weiss moved to an executive chair role.

“Glossier’s first chapter was almost exclusively focused on a single channel of distribution,” Leahy wrote in a letter to the team. “Now, we’ve grown, the marketplace has evolved, and our consumers are looking for us to meet them where they are: in-store, online, at retail partners, and around the world.”

Allbirds

Footwear brand Allbirds is among the largest direct-to-consumer brands, and the publicly-traded company has already stepped into wholesale and expanded owned retail. It is operating in a tough environment that brought supply chain challenges and privacy-oriented changes from Facebook that rewrote marketing playbooks. The brand’s stock has dropped 70% year-to-date as of this week.

This week, the brand laid off 8% of its global workforce, which amounted to 23 employees, according to SFGate.

"We have thoughtfully evaluated roles and processes in each department, and in each market, to ensure our operating structure is set-up for the next phase of growth,” the spokesperson said in a statement to the outlet. “In this process, we looked for ways to streamline workflows, reduce duplicative efforts, and put past learnings and operational insights into practice.”

Allbirds employed 710 people as of December 2021. It will provide a further update when it announces second-quarter earnings on Monday.

Walmart

Walmart has been one of the retailers at the center of the latest economic swings of the pandemic era: First, it started markdowns after supply chain delays left it with inventory that was mismatched to demand. Then, inflation caused shoppers to spend more on food and fuel, leaving sales for more profitable general merchandise such as apparel, home goods and electronics down. Last week, the company warned that its profits for the second quarter would fall as a result of the latter.

This week, news reports indicate that Walmart is set to lay off 200 employees among its corporate staff, with merchandising, real estate and global technology among the most affected areas, the Wall Street Journal reported. At the same time, the company plans to invest in growth areas, including ecommerce and advertising.

“We’re updating our structure and evolving select roles to provide clarity and better position the company for a strong future. At the same time, we’re further investing in key areas like e-commerce, technology, health & wellness, supply chain, and advertising sales and creating new roles to support our growing number of services for our customers, suppliers, and the business community,” a spokesperson said.

Walmart has 1.6 million employees. It is set to report earnings later in August.

Job picture

This week's layoffs follow other recent job cuts across ecommerce and retail. Last week, Amazon said it shed 99,000 jobs in the second quarter after overstaffing during the worst of the omicron surge and overbuilding fulfillment center space in the pandemic. Shopify said it laid off 10% of its workforce, or about 1,000 people, as a result of a pullback on ecommerce growth. In recent months, companies including Stitch Fix and Tonal also announced job cuts.

The news of the latest layoffs come on a week when jobs are the focus of the federal government’s monthly economic reporting cycle.

On Tuesday, the US Labor Department data showed that job openings fell to about 10.6 million, which was the lowest since September 2021. The latest unemployment rates and change in overall jobs will be reported for July on Friday.

While retailers tend to watch consumer spending-related data the closest as they divine the macro picture, this week offers a reminder that jobs are an important part of the economic equation. The labor market has shown continued strength amid 40-year-high inflation, with many pointing to the low unemployment rate as a sign that the economy was not in a recession despite two straight quarters of GDP declines. Hiring slowdowns at big tech companies and any sign that layoffs are mounting will call that into question. Still, it's difficult to draw conclusions from layoffs in specific sectors and companies that plan to continue to hire even after making cuts. Friday’s data will go a long way toward providing a sharper snapshot on the state of the job market as a whole.

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LadderUp will include an 8-week ecommerce course. (Courtesy photo)

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