August 17, 2011

Editorial: Lowe's employees deserved notice


---- — The Lowe's store in Ticonderoga came into the North Country with a splash but closed in a secretive manner.

After the workday ended Sunday, the 86 employees of the store were gathered together and told that Lowe's would not be opening the next morning — or ever again for that matter.

It was one of six stores nationwide that the company decided to scrap, the others being in Elgin and Schaumburgh, Ill.; Meriden, Conn.; Kenai, Alaska; Riverdale, Ga.; and Cambridge, Minn.

When the Press-Republican finally tracked down someone at Lowe's headquarters willing to share information, she said, "The seven stores missed sales estimates from the outset. They didn't improve over time. We didn't see a scenario that led to profitability for the store."

The store had been open only since Feb. 27, 2009.

The 102,000-square-foot building cost the company about $12 million. It took years of planning and zoning discussions and an Adirondack Park Agency sign variance to get the structure in place.

The company also had a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement that gave it reduced taxes for 10 years.

It is disturbing to think that a company can go through all that effort to build a store without being more sure that it could succeed in the market.

The nearest Lowe's were in Plattsburgh and Glens Falls, possibly too close to make an in-between site successful. But isn't that something the chain would have thoroughly researched before expending millions of dollars?

The state of today's economy can't be blamed for the decision to close the store because in 2009 the picture wasn't any prettier than it is now.

You could argue both sides about whether the company should have given the seven closed stores a little longer to gain their footing. Why should the company continue to suffer losses at the stores? On the other hand, wouldn't it have been wise to see if time and possibly a lift in the economy could have turned the struggling stores into successes, especially after all that money and effort?

But there is no arguing that the way the company dealt with its employees is disconcerting. You don't call in 86 people and tell them they are out of a job as of that moment. That is heartless.

The company isn't just dealing with a payroll list. These are real people, with families, mortgages, car loans and all the other expenses for which you count on your paycheck.

The employees will continue to receive pay and benefits for 90 days, and for that, Lowe's deserves credit. But that time will pass quickly, and jobs are not easy to find these days.

Every one of those employees deserved, at the least, the standard two weeks of notice that their lives were about to be turned upside down.

The company should have also cared about the impact on the community of suddenly leaving 86 people jobless. The store was certainly an important component of Ticonderoga's economy, both in sales-tax revenue and in payroll impact.

It's just not right to turn your back on a community and dozens of loyal employees without warning.