List Watch: List Industry Not Immune from Layoffs

Many of their catalog clients, suffering lackluster sales, are resorting to layoffs, so it’s no surprise that several list firms have also trimmed staff or opted not to replace employees who have left.

For instance, in August, Hackensack, NJ-based Mokrynski & Associates laid off eight staffers — less than 5% of its staff of 170. The company also instituted a compensation freeze on employees earning more than $40,000 a year, and when the firm closes for a week during the holiday season, workers will not be paid for the period. The moves follow five consecutive quarters of decreased response rates and catalog circulation, says executive vice president Howard Kupfer. Those who lost their jobs were “mostly at the support level,” Kupfer adds. “All our key people are in place.”

New York-based List Technologies laid off seven of its 40 staffers in August. But List Technologies has added two salespeople as part of the companywide reorganization. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, “business hasn’t been good, but we don’t foresee any more layoffs in the near future,” says chief financial officer Gabe Farrell.

Greenwich, CT-based Direct Media has not had layoffs yet, says chairman Dave Florence, “but our business is down, and there’s always a possibility that layoffs will happen. And everybody who’s telling you the truth will tell you that the list business is down.”

Indeed, ALC New York president Andy Ostroy says that his company’s business has fallen 15% during the past year. “But we didn’t budget for much growth this year,” he says. “We’ve had no layoffs, but there were a couple of people who left our company, and we opted not to replace them.”

Instead of layoffs, Millard Group president Ben Perez says that the Peterborough, NH-based firm recently implemented pay cuts for its entire staff of 240. “We had been assessing contingencies since the first quarter to keep both our services and company morale as high as possible while being in our best position financially,” Perez explains. Following the terrorist attacks, “we had about 10 days of very soft business, and [as of late September] it seems to have come back — if not to what we were trending, it’s still pretty close. We are suffering some cancellations, some changes in mailers’ plans, so we don’t expect it to be as strong as the trend we saw before Sept. 11, but it’s at least up to acceptable levels that won’t necessitate any further change in our organization.”

YES, SOMEONE IS HIRING

Some companies that had been hiring as recently as early September, such as Pearl River, NY-based Walter Karl/Info USA, have since stopped. “Right now, we’re in a hold mode,” says vice president of list management Fran Golub. “We hired people in August and early September that we needed to hire and were thinking of hiring even more. But we’re at full capacity right now, so we have put a temporary hold on any unnecessary hiring.”

But other list firms, including New Rochelle, NY-based Estee Marketing Group and Scarsdale, NY-based Leon Henry, remain in hiring mode. “I’m not saying business is phenomenal,” says Leon Henry vice president Gail Henry, “but we can get through this and have been hiring in both our management and brokerage divisions.”

And both Direct Media and New York-based Adrea Rubin Marketing hired employees from Uni-Mail List Co. after the company closed. Uni-Mail had been located just blocks from the World Trade Center; the devastation following the terrorist attacks led to its demise.

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