“One of the Largest Employers in County”
– By Tiffani Ireland –
February 7, 2015 – Is Urban Outfitters pulling up stakes and leaving Edgefield County? That, it seems, is the million dollar question. Rumors have been swirling for weeks that the company is leaving the county this year. The Advertiser has made several attempts to confirm or squelch these rumors, but, thus far, there has been no success in getting a comment from Urban Outfitters. However, there have been comments from other people, including employees with the company, which speak to a possible closing.
The Advertiser first contacted County Administrator Lynn Strom some weeks ago regarding the rumors and she reported that the County had been given no notice by Urban Outfitters that it may be leaving. The Advertiser also spoke to Will Williams, President of the Economic Development Partnership, to see if he knew anything about the company possibly leaving the area. He, too, had received no notice from Urban Outfitters stating this purpose. In fact, Williams said he meets with the company representatives annually and no indication was given at their last meeting that the business would be leaving. However, he did say the lease on the building out of which Urban Outfitters operates is set to expire soon, possibly at the end of this year. (That building is leased from a third party and not the County.) In speaking to the possible loss of Urban Outfitters, Williams said it would be a “tremendous blow” to Edgefield County as they are one of the largest employers in the County, employing even more workers than long-time resident Milliken.
The Advertiser followed these interviews with a call to Urban Outfitters and spoke with a Senior Operations Manager, Tracy Gatson, When asked if she could confirm or deny the rumor, she responded, “We’re not allowed to make any comments on any news stories.” She did take down contact information and said someone would call back on the matter. That was Monday, Feb. 2. As of Thursday, Feb. 5, there had been no returned call from the company. The Advertiser also contacted the PR department of Urban Outfitters via an email given to the writer by their corporate office. There was no reply. Another contact was made to the company through an official who noted certain protocol had to be followed. That contact was made on Feb. 2, and as of Feb. 6 there has been no reply.
Although the Urban Outfitters officials are not responding, two credible sources have stated that yes, indeed, Urban Outfitters will be closing its doors and leaving Edgefield County. One of those sources gave a time for leaving as June of this year. The other source confirmed the departure, too, and stated that the company believes the recent threats (reported in or Jan. 21 ed.) made against the business were due to disgruntled employees who are aware of the company’s plans to close.
Employees of the facility, some former and some current, were also contacted, and they, too, all state the company is leaving the county; one giving management as a source for this information. This contact also stated that the company has been laying off “lots of people without warning” and that the workforce was told that management was “looking for any reason to terminate people.” Another employee told that, due to workforce hearing of the impending closure, morale is very low. This person stated that there is so little business going on at the site right now that workers are finishing their jobs before the end of their shifts and then standing around idly with nothing to do. However, this source stated an email was circulated a couple of months ago that addressed the rumors of the closing. That email was reportedly sent to supervisors (but then leaked to the workforce) and denied the plant’s closing. This source, no longer with Urban Outfitters but formerly a permanent worker, noted they Urban Outfitters is “moving a lot of product out and nothing is coming in.”
After speaking with these sources, The Advertiser did again speak with County Administrator Lynn Strom and Economic Development Partnership President Will Williams. In speaking with them, the point was made, in regards to the lay-offs that have occurred at Urban Outfitters, that these could be seasonal employees who are now being let go after the holiday season has ended. Each also confirmed that neither have been told by Urban Outfitters of any plans to leave the county.
Administrator Strom confirmed that Urban Outfitters does have a FILO agreement with the County, and The Advertiser has attempted to find out what kind of monetary loss Urban Outfitters’ leaving might mean to the County. However, officials with this information will not be available until next week. The Advertiser will continue to follow this story and give any updates as they become available.