Stab Magazine | Following The Global Corporate Trend, O'Neill Clothing Makes Drastic Staff Cuts

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Following The Global Corporate Trend, O’Neill Clothing Makes Drastic Staff Cuts

The iconic brand’s parent company was just forced to furlough most of its workforce. 

news // Mar 28, 2020
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

It is beyond cliché at this point to say we’re in uncertain times.

Let’s be honest: we’re in completely uncharted seas, most of us without a life raft. We’re all just treading water, trying to keep our heads above the surface.

Which brings us to this afternoon’s news. 

It was announced today that over 3.3 million unemployment claims have been filed in America as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. All aspects of the economy around the world have been impacted, and the surf business is no exception.

In the ongoing constriction of the already tepid surf industry, it came to light today that one of our most venerated brands with over a half-century of heritage, O’Neill, is now furloughing most of its workforce. From Jack O’Neill’s iconic surf shop to his first wetsuit, O’Neill has been an integral component of surfing over the decades, but even those deep roots aren’t immune to the chaos ravaging the current marketplace.

The La Jolla Group, which is the license holder for O’Neill apparel, has either laid off or furloughed the majority of its corporate staff. It has also closed all retail shops and laid off or furloughed retail employees. What is left of the staff have agreed to take a cut in pay. 

UPDATE: We’re thankful to hear that the furloughs and lay-offs are solely on the apparel and licensee-side of the brand, which La Jolla Group. O’Neill wetsuits remains a separate entity still owned by the O’Neill family, and have not taken any such measures. O’Neill wetsuits still remains in Santa Cruz, where Jack O’Neill’s son, Pat, is president (and where they continue to build and develop some of the world’s best wetsuits).

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“These are unprecedented times, and retail is one of the worst hit sectors,” La Jolla Group CEO Daniel Neukomm told industry news site “With the combination of all non-essential retail being forced to close and the lack of clarity around when the government will support a return to economic and commercial normalcy, we needed to conserve cash so the business can weather the near term and have the assets and liquidity needed to rebound when the market resumes commercial activity.”  

This comes following last week’s news that Volcom was also enacting similar measures, furloughing a reported 75% of its workforce, to essentially save the business.

It’s painful to see our favorite brands, and the friends that work for them, endure all of this. Personally, my first wetsuit was an O’Neill. Wandering through their Santa Cruz shop as a kid was magical. The father of one of my best friends bought his first board at the original O’Neill shop on the Great Highway in San Francisco. It’s not a stretch to say that I wouldn’t be writing these words to you today had it not been for O’Neill. Hopefully, like all the other surf brands, they can weather this storm and come out stronger on the other side.

We still have quite a few team members maintaining business continuity and while some are doing less of one thing and more of another,  we are still operational albeit remotely,” explained Neukomm. “We are continuing to build future seasons but certainly taking into consideration the impact of the current climate and how that may influence what and how much product we bring to market.”

The U.S. government has finally passed a bill allocating funds to help relieve both businesses and works as this situation continues to develop.

O’Neill Wetsuits’ President and CEO, Pat O’Neill, remains optimistic.

“Over the last 68 years, O’Neill Wetsuits has been faced with many challenges. While we navigate through these unprecedented and uncertain times, we value both our customers and dealers and I remain confident that united together we will persevere.

“The majority of O’Neill Wetsuits’ corporate office staff in Santa Cruz are working remotely until further notice . Our warehouse facility in San Diego is minimally staffed and employees are working at safe distances in accordance with CDC guidelines. Employees at this location who can work from home are doing so. The safety of our employees and our communities is our top priority. We are taking responsible precautions to help stop the spread of this alarming virus where we can. All O’Neill Wetsuits employees will continue to receive their regular pay until April 12th, at which time we will reassess this unpredictable situation. We encourage our friends everywhere to take the extra precautions necessary to safeguard their health and that of others. 

“Please be safe, responsible and stay healthy.”


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