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Job losses aside, former Future Shop workers will miss 'family-like' workplace

By: Darren MacDonald - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Feb 01, 2014 - 6:16 PM |
About 20 jobs that were cut Thursday in Sudbury, part of 950 the company announced this week at Future Shop and Best Buy stores across Canada. The company says its business model is changing, with online sales doubling in the last year alone. File photo.

About 20 jobs that were cut Thursday in Sudbury, part of 950 the company announced this week at Future Shop and Best Buy stores across Canada. The company says its business model is changing, with online sales doubling in the last year alone. File photo.

About 20 let go in Sudbury on Thursday morning, victims of surge in online sales

The mood was one of sadness more than anger Thursday morning when about 20 employees at Sudbury's Future Shop were told they were losing their jobs.

The staff were mostly full-time. Some had been there for several years, and represented about half of the full-time workers at the store. They were told a surge in online sales – which have more than doubled in the last year – was the main culprit behind the move.

The cuts come days after the company announced it was cutting 950 jobs in Canada at Future Shop and Best Buy. Calls to the company's media relations line seeking details on the cuts and whether any jobs were cut at Best Buy in Sudbury were not returned.

But in a release dated Jan. 30, company president Ron Wilson said eliminating a layer of management and consolidating sales staff was part of the company’s long-term growth strategy in Canada.

“We have been focusing on simplifying our store structure and increasing efficiencies to better align with the changing needs of our customers,” Wilson said in the release. “We have seen our online sales grow by more than 50 per cent in the past year and new services such as in-store reserve and pick up more than doubling. These changes in the way our customers are interacting with us have led us to look at how to best deploy our staff to meet those evolving needs. ”

In interviews Saturday, three of the affected workers said more than anything else, they would miss the family-like atmosphere at the store's New Sudbury location.

Jessica McLaughlin, who worked full-time at Future Shop for two years, said when they arrived to work Thursday, they were told the store manager would be meeting with staff one-on-one.

“People started coming out crying, so we knew it wasn't good,” McLaughlin said. “More people were called in as they got to work. So we pretty much knew by then.”

She and her co-workers were struck by how deep the cuts were, with managers and staffers alike losing their jobs.

“They were there the longest, and were some of the most dedicated people to the company, too,” McLaughlin said. “Then our turn to go in came up, and most of us were let go.”

Nobody had an inkling of what was to come, she said, and the day started off with everyone in a good mood, ready to start the day. But when they saw the teary-eyed look on their manager's face, “we knew,” she said.

“It was like a family working there,” she said. “That's the hardest part. Our manager was very emotional letting us go. It was pretty tough, because we're all friends.”

She was almost out of debt, McLaughlin said, and was looking at buying a new car when she got the news. Workers were told that the increase in online sales was the reason for the job losses.

“The Internet is taking a lot of the business, right?” she said. “People come in and look at the prices and say, 'I can get it a lot cheaper online.' ”

In the last year, they have been promoting shopping online in the store, where you pick out your purchase online, then come in to pick it up, or come in and order online at a kiosk inside the store. It boosted business considerably, she said, but it requires less staff.

Tiffany Knapton, who worked at the store for five years, said Future Shop provided one of the best workplaces she has ever experienced. Staff supported one another even after they got the news Thursday, she said.

“Most of us stuck around to be there for each other,” she said. “Nobody just picked up their stuff and walked out the door. We stayed and we waited for each other.”

Knapton said the store went through a review seven months ago, so they thought they might be safe from cuts.

“We were making all our targets, and we though we were doing super well,” Knapton said. “We knew the company was moving toward more online sales, which is a really smart business move nowadays. But we're important people, too.”

She's fortunate in that her husband has a good-paying job, so she can take some time before deciding her next step. Knapton said she'll enjoy the extra time with her children for now and give herself time to adjust.

“I was supposed to work yesterday morning, and I still woke up super early,” she said. “It felt weird. I realized I don't have a job, I don't have anywhere to go.

“You spend more time with the people at work than (anyone else), really … So I might just take some time and enjoy my kids.”

Some of her colleagues are single parents – one is even the father of twins – and she's most worried about them.

“They were a lot of people who needed that job.”

Dave Richer, a three-year veteran at the store, said he started getting text messages early Thursday, so he knew what was up before he got there. Ironically, he said many of the people let go had helped promote online sales in the store. It's a great business strategy for the company, he said.

“But effectively, we pushed the termination of our own jobs,” Richer said. “It wasn't the part-timers who were there four hours a week that were affected, but the people you're used to seeing every day.”

 He's also most saddened by the loss of personal relationships at the store, as opposed to the actual job loss. Richer plans to take a little while to absorb the shock before he decides what he'll do next.

“Future Shop was great, but there is life after Future Shop,” he said.

Founded in 1982 in British Colombia, Future Shop has about 140 locations in Canada and is the largest electronics retailer in the country. Before the cuts, it employed about 10,000 people. It was purchased by U.S.-based Best Buy in 2001 for $580 million. The company opened in the New Sudbury Centre in the 1990s, before moving to its current standalone location next to the mall in 2006.
Darren MacDonald

Darren MacDonald

Staff Writer

@Darrenmacd

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