MATTHEWS – A recent announcement that Family Dollar would reduce its workforce and close a number of stores in the near future may actually be a step in the right direction, according to one Matthews Chamber of Commerce leader.
The Matthews-based Family Dollar corporation announced last week it would close 370 underperforming stores and reduce its workforce after second quarter sales “did not meet our expectations,” Howard Levine, chairman and CEO of Family Dollar, said in a news release announcing the reductions. Sales last quarter dropped to $2.7 billion from the $2.9 billion seen over the same time last year, according to the release. The workforce reduction already resulted in 135 layoffs in Matthews, while what stores will be closed is not clear yet. Those layoffs, which were from “all divisions and levels,” accounted for 6 percent of the Matthews headquarter’s workforce, according to Bryn Winburn, a spokesperson for the company. Winburn said Family Dollar is committed to Matthews and this month’s announcement did not change that.
While the move means a loss of jobs for many in the Matthews area, Paul Jamison, chairman of the Matthews Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Advisory Council, said the decision is likely the right one for Family Dollar’s long-term future in Matthews.
“That’s Step 1 to staying alive,” Jamison said of Family Dollar’s reductions. “If you look at the histories of great companies, they are able to step forward and make good, hard decisions for their own health. What if the 2,500 people which service Matthews had lost their job instead?
“People think this is a negative, and it is a very sad thing. … However, if companies don’t make this type of decision, it could be worse.”
Jamison hopes the job losses can be mitigated in part by some good business news recently happening in the Matthews area. Town leaders are pleased with the economic impact the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex has had so far, while Matthews recently entered a four-town economic alliance aimed at drawing new businesses to the area. Meanwhile, Jamison points to the Harris Teeter merger with Kroger as a positive for area Harris Teeter stores, while Publix will open its Matthews store on April 23, a Wednesday, and a Mint Hill location will open later this year.
“I think one of the things we also have to look at is what’s going on in Matthews and the business community,” said Jamison, who works in commercial real estate and said he’s seen a number of recent inquiries from businesses interested in the area.
Matthews is “a vibrant community that is growing, and people want to live here and people want to go to school here, and the real estate market is very, very strong here,” Jamison said. “There are a lot of positive things we have to look at. For Family Dollar to make a decision that makes their business healthier … we are proud that Family Dollar is proactive enough to want to make decisions to solidify and continue their future here. You have to make decisions that are best for your organization.”
Family Dollar plans to continue expansion in the near future, with 350 to 400 stores expected to open in fiscal year 2015 – down from 525 stores opened in fiscal year 2014.
“We are taking a number of important steps through our immediate strategic actions to improve our operational efficiency and deliver better financial returns,” Howard Levine said in the release. “Family Dollar has ample opportunities for growth.”