SIKESTON, Mo. -- Brown Shoe Co. Inc. announced Wednesday its plans to close a Sikeston distribution center as part of its ongoing portfolio realignment efforts.
The phased closure is expected to begin in May and conclude in October. During this time, operations will move to other locations, as the company works to reduce excess capacity in its distribution network, officials said in a news release.
"The decision to close this facility was difficult and is in no way a reflection of the skills and abilities of the Sikeston team," said Mike Kauffman, senior vice president of global supply chain management for Brown Shoe Co. "However, the industry landscape continues to change, and we must adapt and evolve to remain competitive."
Brown Shoe Co. has a long history in Southeast Missouri, dating back at least 70 years. The company currently employs 155 people at the Sikeston Distribution Center.
Todd Sterling, a stocker with the local Brown Distribution Center for the past eight years, said he has worked off and on with the company over the last 25 years. Many members of his family have worked either with the company at Charleston or Sikeston, he added.
The announcement of the closing, Sterling said, came as a surprise. He noted the employees were working 9- to 10-hour days, six days a week for months.
"There were so many orders to come in, we couldn't keep up and they had hired extra people. Then suddenly we are out of business," Sterling said.
The loss of the jobs will be devastating for him and his co-workers, he said. Many of his co-workers are wondering what they are going to do, said Sterling, who will be staying on at the plant through the fall.
"It was a wonderful job," Sterling said about working at the distribution center. "They bent over backward to take care of their people. We were family."
Also the jobs lost will have an affect on the area's economy, he added, noting the loss of these good paying jobs will mean fewer dollars circulating into other local businesses.
Sikeston economic development director Ed Dust agrees.
"This is devastating for a company that has been with us this long to leave the employment scene," he said.
According to Dust, the local facility is the last Brown Shoe Co. building in Missouri for their distribution and manufacturing operations; the company's headquarters is still located in St. Louis.
Dust said his office will work to assist the local Brown employees to find jobs with existing companies or as the community continues to recruit new businesses in the community.
Brown Shoe Co. officials said they are encouraging local employees to apply for open positions with the company. Also an on-site career center is being created to assist employees in their internal and external job search efforts.
A severance package will be provided for employees who lost their jobs, the company said.