Breeze Center to slash headcount by 30% as Taiwan records 18th 2019-nCoV case

Luxury retail group denies alleged slow sales amid virus scare, cites normal manpower adjustment to address changing needs

Breeze Nan Shan.

Breeze Nan Shan. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's top American-style shopping mall, Breeze Center, announced a mass layoff on Wednesday (Feb. 12) involving over 100 jobs and accounting for 30 percent of its total headcount as businesses take a hit amid coronavirus fears.

Taiwan this week reported its 18th case of the novel coronavirus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and that is driving down business and discouraging families from eating out.

Restaurants have reported massive cancellations of bookings, and shopping malls are seeing fewer customers. Taichung Danxi Noodle restaurant, for example, announced a furlough starting mid-February, with 70 employees affected by the new policy.

Despite the speculation that its job cuts were the result of fewer local shoppers as well as international ones affected by travel restrictions, the Breeze Center denies the allegation, citing a normal manpower adjustment to address its constantly changing needs. "The group will continue to recruit top and suitable talents to boost its competitiveness," the company said in the statement.

However, LTN reported that the aforementioned "normal adjustment" is larger than the 10 percent staff cuts it has made over the years.

Established in 1995, the group opened its first location in Taipei in 2001 and has dominated the country's luxury retail business since, especially in the capital.

Spanning food courts and both online and offline retail, Breeze Center group last month posted sales of NT$30.5 billion (US$1 billion) in 2019, a whopping increase of 40 percent since 2018. It aims to meet its target of NT$31 billion in 2020.

Breeze Nan Shan, the group's new outlet adjacent to Taipei 101, opened in 2019 in the city's most competitive shopping area, but business at the store is reportedly not booming as expected. Several brands are rumored to have pulled out partly because of the sky-high rents combined with poor sales.