Nordstrom cuts 70 at Towson store

January 05, 1993|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Staff Writer

Nordstrom Co. has cut 70 employees from the permanent work force at its new Towson Town Center store -- a move it described as a normal weeding-out of workers whose performance did not meet its standards, a company spokeswoman said yesterday.

The terminated employees, representing just over 10 percent of the 657 hired for the store's opening in September, were notified they were being let go the week after Christmas, said Kathy Valentine, spokeswoman for the chain's regional office.

Another 50 or so employees who were hired as holiday temporaries also left the payroll, she said.

Ms. Valentine said it was normal practice for Nordstrom to hire liberally when the company first opens a store and to count on "natural attrition" to bring staffing to its proper level.

"We hire a lot of people that don't necessarily have experience," Ms. Valentine said. "A lot of people don't like retail."

The 70 people who were terminated were chosen for the mass dismissal based on their performance, Ms. Valentine said. She explained that in evaluating performance, the store's managers considered both sales figures and other factors, such as teamwork and customer service.

Employees who were terminated for poor performance were informed that was the reason, she said. "It should have been made very clear tothem," she said.

But two fired employees who called The Sun said Nordstrom's explanation was not made clear in their cases. The fired workers, who asked that their names not be used because of concerns about future job prospects, said they were told by managers that they were being let go because the store was not meeting sales expectations. They said no mention was made of unsatisfactory performance when they were terminated.

A former salesman in one of the men's departments said he was toldcuts in excess of normal seasonal adjustments were needed because of a shortfall in store sales. He said the store drew good traffic but that there was "more window-shopping than buying."

In a separate interview, a woman who worked in one of the children's departments said her manager told her the department's staffing was cut in half as a result of sluggish sales.

She disputed Nordstrom's contention that the firings were performance-related.

"I was told exactly the opposite," she said. "My performance was wonderful and I would be one of the first called back."

She said her supervisor told her she was chosen for termination because she was a part-timer, even though she ranked second in sales and third in overall performance out of 10 salespeople.

But Ms. Valentine said the staff reduction was not the result of disappointing sales. "Business is good," she said.

She declined to say whether sales were meeting the company's projections, but early last month, store manager Tonya Young said some of the projections had to be revised upward because sales were stronger than anticipated.

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