B2B Brand Group Lays Off 33% of Florida Staff

May 20, 2002 9:30 PM  By

B2B Brand Group

, which mails the T. Shipley, Reliable HomeOffice, and Awards.com catalogs, is restructuring into an entirely new business—one in which those catalogs will likely take a back seat.

On May 16, the Altamont Springs, FL-based company laid off 30-35 marketing and merchandising employees from its offices here—or about one-third of the company’s staff. The 50-plus fulfillment, call center, and financial employees here will retain their jobs.

In addition, T. Shipley founder Tom Shipley is no longer president/CEO of the catalogs, though he remains with B2B Brand. His role “is in transition now,” he says. “As a member of the board, I am doing whatever is necessary to make the business successful.”

Shipley and B2B Brand general manager Mitch Rothschild say that the layoffs will be offset by an equal number of new hires in other B2B Brand offices during the summer as the company ramps up its new business and establishes itself in several new locations. Although he won’t reveal the specifics of the new business until late May or early June, Rothschild says it will have a b-to-b focus but won’t necessarily revolve around catalog mailings. “We’re dialing up our b-to-b side,” he says, “and dialing down our b-to-c side somewhat.”

As for the future of the three catalogs, Rothschild says none will mail over the summer months. “We’re hibernating for a few months,” he says, “because we have a lot of deadlines with this new initiative. But while we’ll make some modifications to the catalogs, none of them will be discontinued.”

In addition to the catalogs, B2B Brand operates Durham & Co., a promotional products business that it acquired from inflight co-op cataloger SkyMall last year. Durham & Co. produces promotional products catalogs for other businesses, including the U.S. Postal Service.

Although T. Shipley, Awards.com, and Reliable HomeOffice will be back in the mail in the fall, Rothschild says that Reliable will no longer sell furniture, which currently represents 40% of its merchandise mix. “Reliable, which has the biggest consumer focus of our catalogs, will have the most adjustment,” he says. “We know we don’t want to be in the furniture business; we’re not furniture-business people. But there’s a lot we’re still trying to figure out and will decide on over the next few months.”

Also unclear is how the company will be restructured at the top. Currently, B2B Brand has no one person running the show, Rothschild says. Instead, it is being overseen by what Rothschild terms a management committee consisting of himself; former J. Peterman and J. Crew president Arnie Cohen, who joined the company in January to spearhead the new initiative; former Genesis Direct chairman Warren Struhl; and Shipley.