March 30 (UPI) -- Macy's announced Monday it will start furloughing employees this week as its stores remain closed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
While the store chain didn't specify how many workers will be furloughed, it said past measures to streamline costs like reducing receipts, canceling orders and extending payment plans have not worked.
"Across Macy's, Bloomingdales, and Bluemercury brands, we will be moving to the absolute minimum workforce needed to maintain basic operations," Macy's said. "This means the majority of our colleagues will go on furlough beginning this week. There will be fewer furloughs in our digital business, supporting distribution centers and call centers so we can continue to serve our customers online."
Macy's said workers enrolled in health benefits will continue to receive coverage, with the company covering 100 percent of the premium through the end of May. Macy's said it will return employees on a staggered basis when business is allowed to resume.
Macy's had about 130,000 employees in early February and operated 551 Macy's department stores, 53 Bloomingdale locations and outlets, and 171 Bluemercury shops. Those stores have been closed since March 18.
If the closures extend longer, department stores with limited ways to sell their inventory will feel more of the squeeze. Kohl's and Macy's have enough money to survive for five months while J.C. Penney and Nordstrom could last for about eight, according to an analysis by financial service firm Cowen & Co.