NEWBURY PARK, CA (BRAIN)—Industry veterans Russ Okawa and Bruce Schofield were among five Giant USA employees laid off last week as part of a company restructuring.
Okawa (pictured), 59, worked at Giant for 10 years, handling dealer services. He said the news caught him by surprise, but thanks to a generous severance package he has time to consider what’s next.
“At this point, I need to step back and ask if I really want to stay in the bicycle industry. I really haven’t known any other life,” he said.
Okawa’s first job as a teenager was at Canoga Cycle Center. From there he joined Mongoose when Service Cycle owned it. He later spent 10 years at Sachs, but left after SRAM bought the old-line European company. He joined Giant USA after a stint with KMC.
His presence around the office will be sorely missed, said one former Giant employee.
“That guy totally kept that place together. He ran all the inner workings of Interbike; he started the coffee every morning before anybody got there. If anybody didn’t know anything, Russ knew it. He did all the Web site updates, any promotions, getting binders done. He was the guy that got literally everything done,” the source said.
Other employees let go were Tiffany Brown, women’s program manager, Gustavo Corona, who worked in the warehouse, Christa Clinton, an administrative employee and Schofield, a GRP merchandising coordinator who’d been with the company for eight-and-a-half years, according to several sources.
Giant declined to comment on layoffs, but issued a press release saying the company had streamlined its marketing strategy.
“In order to stay competitive in the current US economic downturn, as well as prepare for growth in the future, Giant USA has restructured to become more cost efficient and operationally effective. The restructure includes removing silos within marketing, and centralizing all marketing efforts under one team. This means marketing and branding efforts for Giant for Women and Giant Gear will no longer have separate marketing managers, but instead be integrated within the overall marketing plan and managed by Brad Klipping, Giant USA marketing manager.
“Further, the restructure integrates marketing, merchandising and product management under one leadership structure in order to bring the right products and programs to market in a more holistic manner to maximize the growth of our brand.
Giant has also removed redundancies in programs and personnel, while investing deeper in critical projects that will drive consumer demand for Giant products and brand at retail, along with programs to help our retail partners improve their capabilities. This includes PR, web communication, retail merchandising, retailer education, and consumer outreach programs such as demos and key national events.
Giant has taken great leaps forward in the development of the Giant brand, products, and our retail presentation in the past few years, and we are committed to that continued development with new and exciting products and programs coming in 2010.”
Last November, the company restructured its inside sales team, letting two reps go at that time. The company also trimmed two other employees from its Giant Retail Partnership program last year.
—Nicole Formosa and Marc Sani