We’ve always talked about being an open and honest brand. It’s always felt like the right thing to do in the modern business environment. And it’s usually been easy for us, sharing positives about expansion and the like. Crucially, though, we recognize that the philosophy of openness should apply in both good and bad situations, as much as possible.
With that in mind, we wanted to share that, last Friday, we made the heartbreaking decision to conduct a combination of pay reductions, furloughs, and layoffs, spanning from our stores to our corporate office, in light of the extraordinary circumstances we are all facing with the proliferation of COVID-19.
For context, when we closed our stores on March 14, we’d expected closures to last up to 30 days, for which we knew we could keep people supported throughout. Within a few days, however, we began to expect closures may extend for up to 60 days. For this, we were contemplating some contingencies, but felt we could likely stretch to keep the group largely together and compensated. 7 days after we’d closed, however, our estimates had extended to 90 to 120 days of closures. With such a long and uncertain window, our options were narrowed. And this is a time for pragmatism and caution in the face of such unknowns.
Early last week, before anything else, we notified our stores teams that they’d be paid in full through mid-April (i.e., 4 weeks at full pay after our initial closures), but we weren’t sure of what we’d be able to do beyond that point. (A fact that we also shared with them.) At our corporate office, we shared that we’d likely have to make some tough calls there, too.
Last Friday, having waited to fully understand the breadth of the CARES Act, while spending as much time pressing and pushing to creatively keep as many people as possible aboard, we made the decision to do a combination of layoffs and furloughs at the stores. We kept a couple of people full-time at each store to support day-to-day logistics, e-commerce, and help in our planning for reopening. Others will be paid, as promised, through mid-April. Those furloughed will have benefits and health insurance indefinitely. Those laid off will have benefits and health insurance through the end of April.
At HQ, we also made the tough decision to consolidate some roles. For those remaining on the team, we all took pay cuts indefinitely, which were weighted more heavily toward higher earners and lower toward our more junior colleagues.
In the aftermath, we’re making ourselves available to provide one-to-one support with all affected by the furloughs and layoffs, offering to help with anything from unemployment filings to personal calls to provide support, as and when needed, over the coming weeks. We’ve also committed to not list any positions publicly — store or corporate — when they become available until we’ve shared them with individuals affected by these cuts first. We are pushing ourselves for more creative ideas and initiatives to provide support for those affected. We’ll continue to do so for quite some time, I’m sure.
We'll continue to monitor local and federal guidance to assess our ability to reopen each of our three stores. But we'll only do so when we can be certain of the safety of our teams and visitors. As soon as we arrive at that point, we'll hope to bring as many of these people back to work as possible, furloughs and beyond.
In the meantime, for those of you looking for absurdly talented people to help with your stores, consumer efforts, or otherwise, know that these people, if they apply to work with you, all come with significant endorsement from all of us at Neighborhood Goods. We’ve hired incredibly cautiously over the years. So, if you see “Neighborhood Goods” in someone’s experience on a resume — whether for a store or corporate position — know that they’ve been extraordinarily well-vetted. And know that we would not have parted ways with them under other circumstances. (Indeed, we hope to bring as many of them back on the other side of this as soon as we can.)
Why are we sharing all of this with you? Well, honestly, we feel it’s right to be honest and open. There’s been no prompt or call for us to share this news. Nor do we want to draw unnecessary attention to ourselves. But we do want to share our vulnerable moments, on behalf of those affected, so you know that they did absolutely nothing wrong. That they are loved and respected. And that we are incredibly regretful and sad to have inflicted such a tough thing upon each of them in the midst of a global health crisis.
Now is not really the time for us to speak about our future plans. But, to be clear, we are optimistic, stable, and hopeful for the future. We are open for business online with our site now featuring over 100 brands, while many, many initiatives continue unabated during the closures. We'll share more about those over the coming days, weeks, and months. In the meantime, simply know that Neighborhood Goods isn’t going anywhere and has a role to play for a long time to come.
For this moment, though, none of that really matters. We must do the right thing and pay respect to those who’ve been affected. Our hearts are with all of them. And, indeed, we hope to be reunited soon.