US retailer Pier 1 to close up to 450 stores, cut jobs

Pier 1 Imports is the latest retailer struggling as more consumers shift to online shopping and look for the latest trends. PHOTO: PIER 1/FACEBOOK

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Pier 1 Imports, the US specialty furniture chain once hailed as a trendy destination for young professionals, said on Monday (Jan 6) that it might close up to 450 of its 936 stores, as well as some distribution centers, and lay off an unspecified number of corporate employees.

The company is the latest big-name retailer to announce sweeping closings and job cuts as it struggles with declining store visits and changing consumer tastes. Pier 1 made the announcement while reporting a quarterly sales decline of 13 per cent and a loss of US$59 million (S$79.6 million).

Pier 1, which traces its roots to a store in San Mateo, California, in 1962, is the first national chain to announce major store closings this year. It was an ominous note after a grim 2019 for brick-and-mortar retailers. Bankruptcies last year included major names like the fast-fashion empire Forever 21, the luxury department-store chain Barneys New York, Payless ShoeSource and Charlotte Russe.

Pier 1, based in Fort Worth, Texas, has struggled to attract visitors to stores and increase sales, despite recent efforts to overhaul its marketing and merchandise. Last year, the company touted new marketing efforts around colors like "calming eucalyptus" and "elegant indigo," and said it had brought on a new ad agency for a fresh strategic and creative direction for the holidays.

On Monday, Pier 1 explained its dismal results by pointing to its efforts to clear out merchandise that it will not carry in the future and lower store traffic. Pier 1's annual revenue, which it last reported in April, was US$1.6 billion.

The company's leadership sought to strike an optimistic note about the store closings. Robert Riesbeck, Pier 1's chief executive and chief financial officer since last year, called them "a necessary business decision."

Riesbeck, a former leader of two retailers that filed for bankruptcy, added that Pier 1's actions would "enable us to move forward with an appropriately sized store footprint and operating structure as an omni-channel retailer."

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