Saks facility in Aberdeen to cut 350

Also in Harford, concrete pipe plant to close, lay off 160

Blows to county economy

Firms in both cases will try to find other jobs for workers

October 02, 2001|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

In a cost-cutting move, Saks Inc. will end its catalog operation and lay off up to 350 workers in February at its Aberdeen distribution center, the retailer said yesterday.

The 4-year-old warehouse employs 900 workers in merchandise distribution, catalog and finance divisions, said Carolyn deLong, vice president of human resources for Saks in Aberdeen.

In another blow to the Harford County economy, Price Brothers Co. said yesterday that it plans to close its concrete pipe plant in Perryman in the first quarter of next year and move production to its other facilities throughout the country. Layoffs of the 160 employees will begin in January and continue through March.

Saks notified employees in June that it would merge separate divisions that handle the catalog and the "store book," each of which have their own set of buyers and merchandise, deLong said.

The layoffs will be in the catalog division in Aberdeen, where workers take phone orders, select merchandise and ship it to customers.

The company will continue to produce its "store book," which is distributed through a direct-mail list and sells apparel sold in the stores.

The number of jobs cut could be less than 350, depending on whether workers can be placed in other positions at the 470,000-square- foot warehouse in the Hickory Ridge Industrial Park, deLong said. The company is offering computer job retraining to catalog workers, she said.

"We are starting to absorb people in the rest of the building, and we have placed 30," deLong said.

The move to eliminate the catalog division comes as the retailer seeks to streamline its operations and lower costs, said Julia Bentley, a Saks spokeswoman.

The New York chain operates about 350 stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks Off Fifth and other department stores.

"We had separate merchandise and logistics and staff for catalog and e-commerce," Bentley said. "The real benefit is the customer will see a unified product across all those differing selling points; the Internet, the catalog and the stores will all have the same products."

Saks announced plans for its $50 million state-of-the-art Aberdeen warehouse in 1995 and opened it in 1997.

Price Brothers, a concrete pipe manufacturer based in Dayton, Ohio, said it plans to open a new facility within 20 miles of its soon-to-be closed Harford County plant that will manufacture steel elbows and other pipe accessories.

The new plant is expected to provide jobs for about 40 of the laid-off workers in Perryman.

James S. Clift, the company's chief executive, said the 45-year- old Perryman plant's workers were "great employees who worked hard," but the facility is being closed because its location means transportation and raw material costs are higher and because it is an older, less efficient plant.

Sun staff writer Kristine Henry contributed to this article.

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