Russell Brands layoffs will be affecting 75 workers as the century-old sports equipment manufacturer contends with a shrinking market share. The cuts were made at the Russell Brands distribution center in Alexander City, Alabama, where the company started up in 1902. These Alabama layoffs are part of a long process which has seen thousands of jobs disappear as the sports company has been winding down its production.
The latest round of Russell Brands job cuts is believed to be tied to the halting of the company’s team athletic apparel production at the end of 2017.
The company’s descent from prominence has been a long time coming, with Russell Brands hitting its apex in 1992, when it signed a five-year contract with Major League Baseball (MLB) teams to provide their uniforms. That led sales to hit $1.25 billion in 1995, and the company employed roughly 18,000 people around the world.
That decade, however, would prove to be harrowing for the company’s workers. The headquarters moved to Atlanta in 1999, cutting 6,000 jobs by 2002, after many of the company’s positions were outsourced to Honduras and Mexico.
Then, in 2006,Russell Brands was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and turned into a division of Fruit of the Loom, Inc.
After those earlier rounds of Russell Brands layoffs and outsourcing, only about 1,000 workers remained in Alexander City. Following the latest round of job cuts, the total workforce in Alexander city is estimated to be 250.
Russell Brands Ceased Production of Athletic Apparel in Alexander City
When Russell Brands shut down production at its “Russell Athletic & Activewear” division, this was perceived by many to be one of the final hits that the company could take. The dissolution of athletic apparel production in Alexander City meant that, what had once led the company to have over a billion dollars in sales and nabbed it deals with MLB teams, was no longer operational.
The Russell Brand layoffs that followed were only logical, as the company pared down its operations.
Yet another hit came in the summer of 2017, when Georgia Tech announced that it would be ending its contract with Russell Brands. This marked one of the final major departures from the company’s athleticwear production, and it certainly factored into the closure of that side of the business.
Here is a statement from Russell Athletic & Activewear’s Senior Vice President for Brand Management Scott Greene released when the company first announced that it was ceasing production of athleticwear: “For over 115 years, Russell Athletic has provided quality apparel for athletes both on and off the field of play. We are proud of our heritage, but to build lasting relationships with a new generation of athletes, we will need to focus our efforts and play to our strengths.”
Green’s statement continued, “Today, we will begin to transition away from the team uniform business to allow greater emphasis on the consumer retail market. With this shift, we will continue to offer high quality athletic lifestyle and performance apparel for distribution through multiple retail and wholesale channels, including continued distribution of collegiate licensed products along with non-uniform apparel through the team dealer network.”
“Russell Brands announces layoffs,” The Outlook, January 7, 2018.
“Russell to cease production of athletic uniforms,” The Outlook, September 28, 2017.