Saks will close Harford distribution center next year and lay off 150

Saks Fifth Avenue plans to close its Aberdeen distribution center early next year and lay off about 150 workers.

The warehouse at 500 Hickory Drive will shut down in phases between March and August, the company said in a notice filed with the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. The upscale department store retailer informed Harford County officials of its plans last week.

The private, nonprofit Susquehanna Workforce Network is assisting workers in finding new jobs, said Cindy Mumby, a spokeswoman for Harford County government.

Hudson’s Bay Co., parent of Saks Inc., plans to move the operations to its Wilkes-Bare, Pa., distribution center starting in February “to streamline work and create efficiencies,” Tiffany Bourre, a Hudson’s Bay spokeswoman, said Tuesday.

She said the company will offer transfers where possible.

Department store retailers, like Saks and Toronto-based Hudson’s Bay, which is also the parent of Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth, have been struggling with shifting consumer shopping patterns and the decline of some shopping malls.

The Saks warehouse, which once employed more than 600 people, has pared down its workforce over the years. The facility laid off 191 employees in 2014 after Saks Inc. was acquired by Hudson’s Bay. At the time, it moved some of the work to Hudson’s Bay’s warehouse in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Saks had previously laid off 223 workers, in May 2012.

For their part, Harford County officials are optimistic the vacated warehouse will find a new use, since demand for such real estate is high in the county.

“We believe that it won’t be difficult for the space to be filled,” Mumby said. “We’ve had a lot of action in terms of warehouse distribution space in the county.”

The Container Store and two other companies announced leases of a combined 1.5 million square feet of county warehouse space in August, moves that are expected to create up to 400 new jobs. The Container Store will move into a 600,000-square-foot building that will be constructed in the Eastgate 95 industrial park in Perryman and serve as the chain’s East Coast distribution center. Kuehne + Nagel, a logistics firm, announced plans to move into a 656,880-square-foot building across the street.

And PrimeSource, a national building products distributor, signed a lease for 250,000 square feet in a building to be constructed on Advantage Avenue in Aberdeen. As of October, Harford County had an industrial vacancy rate of 4.5 percent.

State officials had lured the multi-million dollar Saks facility to Harford in a 1995 deal that included a $3 million state loan in addition to a previously approved $3 million from a state business incentive fund.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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