Plunging tourist numbers blamed for layoffs at Hilo Hattie - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Plunging tourist numbers blamed for layoffs at Hilo Hattie

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - First bankruptcy and now lay-offs for one of the state's largest local retailers.

Late Monday afternoon, more than 30 employees of Hilo Hattie found out they no longer have jobs.

Big drops in sales and number of visitors to the islands are blamed for the company's cutback.

Hilo Hattie filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in early October, but still, officials are hopeful to bounce back.

News hit Hilo Hattie employees late in the afternoon.

Offices were packed up. Stunned laid off workers are escorted to their cars.

They're angry and overwhelmed.

"My supervisor said I can go home because I'm totally shocked. Everyone can't concentrate," said Hilo Hattie employee Emiko Kuroyanagi.

Emiko Kuroyanagi is one of the lucky ones. But the company's 31 administrative cuts claimed some of her close friends.

"I'm totally blank," said Kuroyanagi.

Officials declined comment on camera but released a statement from the company president.

It says: "This has been a very difficult decision to make, especially in light of the holiday season, but that in itself shows how challenging the situation is. Hawaii is hit hard by the global economic meltdown and the consequences of that are especially tough on the retail sector."

"We didn't know anything about it until now," said Kuroyanagi.

Nearly $23 million in debt, Hilo Hattie filed bankruptcy in October to reorganize and focus its efforts on moving from the flagship Nimitz Highway location to the Royal Hawaiian Shopping center in July 2009. The company wants to draw more tourists, it's largest percentage of customers.

"Hopefully things will get better so we shall see," said Kuroyanagi.

A positive tune the company hopes pushes it through this turbulent economy.

Hilo Hattie still employs almost 230 people in its seven Hawaii stores and it's eighth in California. The company says the cut workers are terrific employees and they'll receive help to find other jobs.

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