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Tuft & Needle is firing staff and closing stores due to COVID-19

The company says it hopes to rehire people when stores eventually reopen

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Tuft & Needle is closing retail stores and letting go of a portion of its staff due to the coronavirus pandemic. The buzzy direct-to-consumer mattress company had six retail locations in cities including Seattle, Scottsdale, and Raleigh. It says it hopes to rehire workers when stores are able to open.

“Today we had to make the difficult but necessary decision to part ways with a portion of our retail team and temporarily close our retail locations in light of COVID-19,” the company said in a statement emailed to The Verge. “Our goal is to rehire those employees when stores eventually reopen.”

Tuft & Needle is among the direct-to-consumer companies that flourished over the past eight years. The mattress company operates primarily online, and its retail stores are a comparatively small part of its business. In opening them, it followed brands like Glossier, Warby Parker, and Reformation in hopping from the digital world to the physical, using brick-and-mortar shops as a flashy marketing channel. Now, Tuft & Needle is among the direct-to-consumer businesses being forced to go back to their roots.

Glossier — the much beloved dewy makeup brand — was one of the first companies to shutter its retail store doors due to the spread of the virus. It closed shops in New York, London, Los Angeles, and Atlanta for two weeks, starting on March 12th. The company is paying its employees for the entire duration of that closure.

In a blog post, CEO Emily Weiss wrote, “From a company perspective, by closing our stores, we’ll sacrifice some near-term business goals, but we’re prepared to put public health ahead of our bottom line.”

ThirdLove, a bra company and d-to-c darling, also decided to close its pop-up store in New York this week. In an email to the company, CEO Heidi Zak said, “with the grim near-term outlook for physical retail and the uncertainty in general in the global economy ... we are no longer planning to support a retail strategy for the business.” In a statement emailed to The Verge, she added that the company is offering retail employees severance and extended benefits.

While the coronavirus pandemic is rocking the entire global economy, part-time workers without health care or guaranteed wages are likely going to be especially hurt. Many states are rolling out new unemployment policies to cover those who’ve lost their jobs due to COVID-19, but these policies don’t always extend to part-time workers.

For Tuft & Needle employees, the layoffs came as a surprise, despite knowing that store closures were a possibility. “Up until yesterday the communication sounds like it had been pretty positive around keeping the stores open and certainly no hints that if the stores were going to close that people’s jobs would be in jeopardy,” a former worker said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation in the retail industry. “If they really intend to try and open back up in April as they are communicating publicly, why are you letting go of staff? I think the reality of letting people go right away isn’t really matching with this idea that stores are going to reopen soon.”