Low sales equal layoffs

NEWARK, Ohio – The Longaberger Co. said yesterday it will lay off 784 manufacturing employees Sept. 9 because of slumping sales.

The company had warned in July that up to 970 workers could be laid off if sales did not improve.

The layoffs, combined with the number of workers who have left the company since the July announcement, will reduce its total work force by 900 workers to 4,500, the company said.

“Our company is focused on the future and we are making the changes needed to meet customer demand,” Tami Longaberger, the company’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.

At the company’s recent annual sales convention, Longaberger said the economy, rising health and energy costs, consumer demands for innovative and lower-priced products and changing consumer buying habits have presented challenges for the company.

The company said it has developed new products while slashing its administrative staff by 21 percent the past two years and sold or no longer is operating some non-core assets.

When it announced the layoffs last month, the privately held company said it posted record sales in the last two months of 2003 and continued strong into early 2004. But overall customer trends in 2003, combined with lower-than-expected sales during the past three months, forced the 31-year-old company to take this step, the company said last month.

The company’s products include handcrafted baskets, pottery, wrought iron and fabric accessories. Its products are sold to customers through independent sales consultants.