B&H Photo & Electronics furloughed hundreds of employees this week — a move the iconic retailer had resisted for more than a month after its megastore in Manhattan was forced to shutter because of the coronavirus lockdown, The Post has learned.
The 47-year-old electronics seller — whose Manhattan flagship is known for its Orthodox Jewish staff and the elaborate conveyor-belt system that moves merchandise around the shop — furloughed about 400 of its 2,000 employees on Wednesday, sources close to the company said.
In a memo to affected employees, human resources director Izzy Friedman said B&H “waited as long as possible” before making the cuts, and noted the company had been paying and providing benefits for affected workers “through the Passover holiday break, and beyond to make this easier.”
B&H was likewise waiting to “evaluate the various stimulus benefits available,” but was forced in the end to furlough workers because the “crisis has continued with no clear end in sight,” Friedman added.
The furloughs came as a surprise to one B&H staffer, who said the company’s call center, which takes orders from customers across the US, has been “busy as hell” fielding demand for “computers, movie cameras and accessories for setting up a home office” as COVID-19 forces millions nationwide to work from home.
B&H closed its two-story store at 420 Ninth Ave. at the corner of West 34th Street on March 16, but customers can still pick up their purchases at the side entrance within 30 minutes of placing an order, according to the Web site.
Owned by the Schreiber family — married couple Blimie and Herman Schreiber opened the first store in 1973 at 17 Warren St. in Tribeca — B&H waited longer than most retailers in the Big Apple to trim its ranks.
“It is our sincerest hope and prayer that this global pandemic and its economic impacts will be temporary, and that in the future we will be able to reverse many of these furloughs,” Friedman wrote in the Wednesday memo.
A spokesman for B&H declined to comment on the memo.