Skip to main content

Retail’s Biggest Layoffs of 2015

No one’s job was safe in 2015 as retailers spanning mass-market to luxury made cuts across a range of departments in an effort to streamline operations.

Target
2015 was tough for Target workers, more than 20,000 of whom lost their jobs throughout the year. Most of the layoffs were the result of the retailer’s decision to shutter all 133 of its Canadian stores, cutting about 17,000 positions in the process, while its Minneapolis headquarters lost 1,700 employees as well as 1,400 vacancies as part of a $2 billion cost-savings plan. On top of that, about 180 people were let go from Target’s tech operations in India.

“While today’s news is difficult, it’s important to know that we will continue to make investments in our business and team—particularly in areas such as digital, personalization, data and analytics and engineering—to position Target for future success,” spokeswoman Molly Snyder told Fortune in an e-mailed statement.

Wet Seal
Troubled teen retailer Wet Seal announced 338 store closures in January, leaving 3,695 full- and part-time workers jobless. In response, employees at several locations hung posters in store windows featuring the hashtags #BoycottWetSeal and #ForgetWetSeal, which went viral on Reddit.

J.C. Penney
J.C. Penney cut 300 of 3,400 positions at its corporate headquarters in Plano, Texas, in October as part of its ongoing restructuring efforts that also include closing around 40 stores in 2015 and decreasing $5 billion in pension obligation by as much as 35 percent. The department store chain had previously announced plans to lay off 2,250 employees last January.

Neiman Marcus
Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus laid off 500 employees—about 3 percent of its workforce— in corporate and support positions in October as part of “an initiative called Organization for Growth, the goal of which is to improve the ways we run our business and to accelerate investments…that drive growth.”

Related Stories

Walmart
In a bid to become “a more agile company that can easily adapt to shifting customer demand,” Walmart cut 450 positions at its corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, in October. The downsizing wasn’t necessarily a surprise; during an earnings conference call in August, CEO Doug McMillon warned the company would be “cutting costs where appropriate” during the second half of the year. The layoffs followed the 50 that lost their jobs in February.

Dollar General
Following the merging of its two biggest rivals to create the largest dollar chain in the U.S. with some 13,000 stores, Dollar General wasted no time in taking steps to reduce expenses so it could meet its goal of having 730 new stores by the end of 2015. In October, the discounter said it would cut about 255 positions at its headquarters to “proactively improve efficiencies.”

“Over the last several months, we have taken a hard look at our cost structure and are streamlining our support functions to improve our financial flexibility while positioning us to better serve our customers and to capitalize on long-term growth opportunities,” CEO Todd Vasos said in a statement. “This restructuring should allow us to continue strengthening our market leadership position and deliver long-term value for our shareholders.”

J.Crew Group
After J.Crew Group announced yet another disappointing quarter of declining sales at its namesake chains, the retailer ousted its women’s design chief in June as part of a mass culling that shrank its corporate staff by 10 percent. Cuts were made across the company in such areas as store operations, production, sourcing and merchandising, eliminating around 175 open and filled full-time positions primarily in New York.

Bebe
Seeking to streamline its lifestyle assortments and improve efficiency across the business, Bebe announced plans to eliminate more than 50 positions—primarily in design, merchandising and production—in October. The Brisbane, California-based company said it expects pre-tax costs associated with the reorganization to be about $1.5 million but anticipates annual savings of $4.8 million.

“We believe this will position us to maintain a more consistent and better edited offering of fashion that is true to the Bebe brand,” Jim Wiggett, chief executive officer, said in a statement, noting that he believed the layoffs to be “in the best long-term interest of the company.”

American Apparel
Several consecutive quarters of sliding sales (not to mention a slew of lawsuits filed by its fallen founder and CEO Dov Charney) pushed American Apparel to make a couple of cutbacks this year. In April, about 180 workers—mostly in manufacturing—were let go in order to streamline the company’s operations. Another round of layoffs struck two months later and underperforming stores continue to close.