Two weeks after Half Price Books closed all of its stores, the company has laid off or furloughed 2,146 people, representing 78% of its workforce of 2,752. The company operates 126 stores in 17 states.
Furloughed employees will retain benefits, including health insurance, and all should be able to apply for unemployment. Among the remaining employees, those in management have agreed to take a pay cut.
"This is a very hard day in the history of Half Price Books," said Kathy Doyle Thomas, chief strategy officer at Half Price. "But we know we will come back. We just don't know exactly when.
The company is pulling stock from stores and offering it for sale online, and is also adding remaindered and bargain titles from its partner company, the Texas Bookman. "Previously, we would have shipped those books around the world, but since there are no orders from abroad, we are selling them here," Doyle Thomas said.
Doyle Thomas said that online orders over the past few weeks have been the strongest the company has ever seen. "Books and non-book items, like puzzles, have been very strong sellers," Doyle Thomas said. "We've been getting a lot of calls from teachers, nonprofits, and other organizations that are looking for help as well and we do what we can." The company is anticipating the sales will continue to increase, particularly as governors around the country extend state-wide lockdowns for weeks or months.
Doyle Thomas admitted that while the online sales are good to have, they don't match those from a typical day of bricks-and-mortar sales. "We are, at the end of the day, a physical bookstore first," she said. As concerns the future, Doyle Thomas says they are taking things "week by week" and are discussing options with various landlords around the U.S. to try to mitigate lost revenue, as well as to make sure the company can hold on to as many leases and stores as possible.
"The outpouring of support we have received from customers has been gratifying and it has reaffirmed that we are valuable and a necessity to our community," said Doyle Thomas. "We look forward to the day we can reopen and celebrate with them together."