Shared from Business Insider
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Wayfair laid off 550 employees this week.  |  Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jenny Kane

Since Monday, nearly 1,800 total positions were eliminated across four major companies — Jetblack, Wayfair, Kohl’s, and Barneys — in retail. These workers join a growing legion of retail employees who continue to be axed en masse from major companies, despite the US unemployment rate reaching a 50-year low in 2019.

While the challenges plaguing these companies are nuanced, the cuts represent a wide cross section of the issues affecting both traditional retailers and e-commerce companies alike, as they struggle to keep up with the fickle whims of consumers.

“The struggles of Kohl’s, Walmart, and Barneys are exemplary of what many retailers are facing today,” Katrin Zimmermann, managing director of TLGG Consulting, told Business Insider. “There’s a tendency to point towards rising rents and competition from e-commerce players as the source of these struggles, yet there are things all retailers can do to remain competitive in the new decade.”

Though Barneys and Kohl’s represent opposite sides of the traditional retail spectrum — Barneys an iconic luxury department store beloved among celebrities, and Kohl’s the big-box store that became emblematic of the suburban US shopping center — both have failed to adapt to a quickly changing retail landscape.

“Department stores have been struggling for a long time, but they still generate billions of dollars,” Sucharita Kodali, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, told Business Insider last year. “That’s not going to evaporate overnight, but we’re still seeing this slow chipping away. Sometimes a well-executed program can help stave off the decline. Every quarter they have to pull a rabbit out of a hat.”

Since Monday, nearly 1,800 total positions were eliminated across four major companies — Jetblack, Wayfair, Kohl’s, and Barneys — in retail. These workers join a growing legion of retail employees who continue to be axed en masse from major companies, despite the US unemployment rate reaching a 50-year low in 2019.

While the challenges plaguing these companies are nuanced, the cuts represent a wide cross section of the issues affecting both traditional retailers and e-commerce companies alike, as they struggle to keep up with the fickle whims of consumers.

“The struggles of Kohl’s, Walmart, and Barneys are exemplary of what many retailers are facing today,” Katrin Zimmermann, managing director of TLGG Consulting, told Business Insider. “There’s a tendency to point towards rising rents and competition from e-commerce players as the source of these struggles, yet there are things all retailers can do to remain competitive in the new decade.”

Though Barneys and Kohl’s represent opposite sides of the traditional retail spectrum — Barneys an iconic luxury department store beloved among celebrities, and Kohl’s the big-box store that became emblematic of the suburban US shopping center — both have failed to adapt to a quickly changing retail landscape.

“Department stores have been struggling for a long time, but they still generate billions of dollars,” Sucharita Kodali, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, told Business Insider last year. “That’s not going to evaporate overnight, but we’re still seeing this slow chipping away. Sometimes a well-executed program can help stave off the decline. Every quarter they have to pull a rabbit out of a hat.”

Kohl’s: 250 employees

kohls 2561
Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

After several quarters of underperforming sales, Kohl’s announced on Wednesday it would slash 250 jobs, including several regional managers, as part of a larger companywide restructuring plan. Though Kohl’s will not close any stores at the time being, the Midwest retailer has significant work to do in order to improve efficiencies and bolster sales, even after testing innovative partnerships like its return program with Amazon.

“I was convinced that [the Amazon] partnership would have brought new potential customers through their doors to return Amazon products, with some portion of those customers spending money in the store on their way out,” Jonathan Treiber, CEO of offer-management platform RevTrax, told Business Insider last year. “However, even if this were true, the rest of the Kohl’s value proposition and store experience needs a face lift.”

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