3,500 retail employees lose 75% of pay as Northwest apparel giant's stores remain closed

PMG FILE PHOTO - Columbia Sportswear workers sort apparel coming in from around the Pacific Rim at the company's massive Rivergate industrial area distribution center. Thousands of Columbia retail employees will be furloughed as the Northwest outdoor apparel maker's stores remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.Beaverton-based Columbia Sportswear is the latest Northwest retailer to make significant staffing changes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Columbia announced 3,500 of its retail employees will be furloughed, taking a 75% reduction in pay, with unspecified changes at the corporate level as well. The newspaper reported that Columbia employees are expected to retain their benefits through the end of the month.

Columbia designs and markets outdoor, active and "everyday lifestyle" apparel from its Northwest headquarters in Oregon and has retail stores throughout the U.S.

News of the employee furloughs came after the company announced in March that it would close its retail stores throughout North America on March 16, to avoid risk to the company's employees and customers, in light of COVID-19.

"The health and safety of our employees, consumers and the communities where we live and work is paramount to us," Tim Boyle, chair, president and CEO of Columbia Sportswear, said in a March 15 public announcement about the store closures on Columbia's website. "During this temporary closure we are also offering catastrophic paid leave to our employees most affected by this virus in an effort to live our values of Doing the Right Thing for our employees, consumers and communities."

PMG FILE PHOTO - Columbia Sportswear Company in downtown Portland.
The company did not respond to requests for additional comment or information Friday.

Retail stores, along with gyms, salons, theaters and a slew of other non-essential businesses in Oregon remain closed, in accordance with an executive order issued by the governor's office on March 24. Some retail stores have stayed open for web orders only, prohibiting customers in the store and instead providing online shopping with delivery or curbside pick-up. Along with other retail stores in Oregon, Columbia's headquarters, factory store and other retail sites remain closed to the public.

Oregon's jobless claims are at an all-time high, according to the state.

Over the past three weeks, the Oregon Employment Department has received nearly 270,000 initial claims for unemployment benefits, according to an April 9 report.

That rivals the 147,800 net job losses the state during the Great Recession.

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