By Lenore Fedow
Signet has furloughed an undisclosed number of employees in its stores and support centers as all 2,800 of its stores in North America remain temporarily closed amid the coronavirus crisis.
New York—Signet has furloughed some store and support center employees following the temporary closure of its stores amid the coronavirus pandemic, the company announced in a memo Monday.

The company declined to disclose the number of employees the furloughs will affect.

Signet Jewelers Ltd., the largest specialty jeweler in the United States, announced the closure of its 2,800 stores in North America last week.

It said it planned to pay employees through April 4, but noted reduced work hours, furloughs, and reduced compensation would likely follow.

“We believe that making this very difficult decision to furlough team members now will help us save team member jobs in the future,” Chief People Officer Mary Liz Finn said in the memo.

Pay will be suspended during the temporary layoff period, but medical, dental, and vision benefits will stay in place.

Those impacted can apply for unemployment benefits right away or apply after using up to two weeks of available paid time off.

Unemployment benefits have been expanded under the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which provides $2 trillion in aid.
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Under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, individuals who qualify for unemployment will receive an additional $600 on top of the amount given by the state in which they reside.

The provision will provide unemployment insurance for 39 weeks, an extension on the standard 26 weeks, and payments will be made available from the first week of unemployment, eliminating the usual one-week delay.

Furloughed Signet employees experiencing severe financial hardship can reach out to the Signet Team Member Relief fund.

In a quarterly earnings call last week, CEO Virginia Drosos said executives have taken a voluntary 50 percent base salary reduction, with half replaced with equity grants, and that its board has reduced its retainer fees by 50 percent to be compensated entirely in common shares of Signet.

She added that a portion of executive bonuses have also been placed in the relief fund for colleagues.

The company said it will share more details on the fund in the coming days.

Signet joins the growing number of major retailers that have furloughed employees as stores nationwide remained shuttered in an attempt to contain COVID-19.

Movado announced Thursday morning it is temporarily furloughing 80 percent of its North American workforce, amounting to approximately 850 employees.

In its recent quarterly earnings, the watch company announced the closure of all its retail stores in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The furlough is effective April 6 through the end of May, though the end date is subject to change.

Staffing will be kept to a minimum at its warehouses worldwide, which will focus on e-commerce orders.

U.S. employees will receive health and other benefits during the furlough.

Salaried employees will see a salary reduction of 15 to 25 percent while CEO Efraim Grinberg will forego his salary. The board of directors has waived the cash portion of its compensation.

The company’s 401(k) match and its match on executive deferred compensation plans have been frozen.

“As we look ahead, our strong balance sheet and the decisive actions announced today should enable the company to emerge from the current crisis with the means to quickly ramp up operations to support our brands and business,” Grinberg said in a press release.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. said Tuesday it is temporarily furloughing the majority of hourly store associates starting today.

Furloughs will extend to a significant portion of associates in the company’s home office, as well as the Salt Lake City and New York design offices and salaried store associates, on April 5.

The retailer already had furloughed many workers in its supply chain and logistics centers.

Macy’s Inc. also has furloughed its employees following store closures.

“The COVID-19 outbreak continues to take a heavy toll on Macy’s Inc. business,” the retailer said Monday.

Its stores have been closed since March 18 and will remain closed “until we have [a] clear line of sight on when it is safe to reopen.”

The majority of employees of Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Blumercury will be furloughed as the retailer moves to the “absolute minimum” workforce needed to maintain basic operations.

The retailer declined to disclose the number of employees the furloughs will affect.

There will be fewer temporary layoffs at its digital business, supporting distribution centers, and its call centers as business continues online.

Those affected and enrolled in health benefits will continue to receive them at least through May, said Macy’s, with the company covering 100 percent of the premium.

The retailer said it expects to bring back employees on a staggered basis as business resumes.

CEO Jeff Gennette will not receive compensation at this time, and pay has been reduced for all managers at the director level and above, effective April 1 and lasting until the coronavirus crisis has passed.

Macy’s recently introduced turnaround plan, dubbed Polaris, is likely on hold as the retailer said it is deferring capital spend, as well as suspending its quarterly dividend and cancelling some of its orders.

More than 6.6 million new claims for unemployment insurance were filed last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday morning, more than double the 3.1 million economists were expecting.

In the past two weeks, 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include additional information from Movado.

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