Budgets Tightened, Jobs Squeezed

As retailers big and small continue shedding jobs amid economic troubles, some convenience and petroleum brands bleed a little, some bleed a lot. 

The industry is taking its share of hits in this economic tsunami, but if there’s any consolation, it’s this: Their wounds aren’t nearly as deep as those suffered in other retail channels.

Consider the plight of the beleaguered Circuit City brand, whose exodus from the retail world has resulted in 567 stores closed and 30,000 jobs lost.

Other leading retail brands weren’t without their scars. In the first month of this year alone, companies that announced layoffs included Walgreens (1,000 jobs lost), KB Toys (10,915 jobs), Home Depot (7,000 jobs) and Starbucks (7,000 jobs), to name a few.

The most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor puts the national employment rate at 7.6%. The convenience and petroleum industries, unfortunately, also saw cuts in some markets, albeit far less dramatic than retailers in other channels.

Dallas-based 7-Eleven announced last month that it’s cutting its non-store and non-operational workforce by about 10%, or about 200 employees, in the U.S. and Canada.

Moreover, 7-Eleven is suspending raises, incentives and 401(k) matching to try and remain as profitable as possible in this economy. But while 7-Eleven joins ranks with other channel-leading brands and corporations announcing layoffs, it also had its share of growth this quarter.

Last month the company announced the opening of a new “green” commissary in Bohemia, Long Island. The 130,000-square-foot facility, operated by Norris Food Services, will prepare and deliver fresh foods to 674 7-Eleven stores in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Others haven’t been so lucky, such as Independence, Kan.-based Crescent Oil Co., which filed for bankruptcy last month.

A fuel supplier for 340 sites in six midwestern states, Crescent supplies ConocoPhillips, Shell and Valero branded fuel. The company filed for Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Kansas City, where court documents show Crescent and its subsidiaries had more than $85 million in assets and $88 million in liabilities.

Among its largest debtors are Shell/Equilon of Atlanta, Ga., ($6.45 million owed); Kansas Department of Revenue, Motor Fuels Tax Section ($4.3 million owed); ConocoPhillips of Bartlesville, Okla. ($3.6 million owed); and CHS Inc. (more than $915,000 owed). To other debtors it collectively owes millions of dollars more. 

Houston-based CITGO, meanwhile, said the unprecedented economic crisis also hit the oil company hard, forcing it to offer separation packages to about 2% of its workforce, or about 75 of 3,762 employees.

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