PITTSFIELD — Three years after opening a customer call center in Pittsfield, Wayfair has decided to close it, cutting costs amid a companywide retrenchment.
The Boston-based online retailer said Monday it will close its facility in the Clock Tower Business Center on South Church Street when the company’s lease expires in July. The call center has been open since October 2019.
The 40 employees who work for Wayfair in Pittsfield will join the company’s virtual customer service team, said a company spokeswoman, Susan Frechette. They have all been notified of Wayfair’s decision.
Mayor Linda M. Tyer said the city was informed of Wayfair’s intentions Monday.
“Clearly, it’s discouraging news, because as you know Wayfair came into the community with quite a bit of fanfare,” Tyer said. When the call center opened three years ago, Wayfair said it planned to have 300 employees working at the facility by 2022.
On Friday, Wayfair announced it planned to eliminate 1,750 jobs companywide, roughly 10 percent of its workforce. On Monday, Frechette said the effect of those layoffs on the call center staff in Pittsfield is “minimal,” but did not provide specific numbers. The majority of Wayfair’s layoffs, 1,200, will affect employees in the firm’s corporate sector, the company said Friday.
Wayfair has filed a notice with the state of Massachusetts regarding the pending layoffs, said Heather Boulger, executive director of the MassHire Berkshire Workforce Center in Pittsfield.
“Moving our customer service team to a virtual working model continues to allow us to best serve our customers while supporting cost-saving efforts for the business,” Frechette said in an email. “We remain committed to Pittsfield and our local communities and will continue to provide support to our regional employees who live and contribute to them.”
Before opening its call center in the Berkshires, Wayfair received $31,350,000 worth of investment tax credits from the state Economic Assistance Council to add jobs in both Pittsfield and Boston. No city money was included or involved in that state tax package.
The bulk of that investment tax credit was related to Wayfair’s proposal to add 3,000 jobs in Boston. The 300 jobs Wayfair said that it planned to create in Pittsfield within three years made up $2,850,000 of that overall sum, which came to $9,500 per position.
The status of that state’s investment tax package could not be determined Monday. The council, which is part of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, could not be reached for comment.
“It’s the first I’m hearing of this, but I’m not shocked,” said state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, regarding Wayfair’s announcement about the closing of the local call center. “I had heard that they were laying off throughout the company and wondered what the implications for Pittsfield would be.”
“Both the commonwealth and the city of Pittsfield put a lot of resources in to support that company,” she said of Wayfair, “and so the next step would be to see if they’ve fulfilled those obligations under those agreements.”
Tyer said Wayfair told her it plans to hire additional employees in the Berkshires to work in the virtual call center, but did not provide specific numbers.
“On the other hand, they are going to keep their current employees and plan to hire additional customer service representatives,” she said.
“Many corporations have shown that the work-from-home model works — and it feels like this is part of Wayfair’s corporate strategy to have more of their employees working remotely,” Tyer said.
Wayfair and Berkshire Community College are running a free, monthlong job training program that is designed to give participants skills they need to work as service consultants for the company, according to Deb Sarlin, the college’s executive director for community and education development. The program began this month. Graduates receive placement as Wayfair service consultants, according to the program’s description.
Besides Pittsfield, Frechette said Wayfair has decided not to extend facility leases at many of its customer service locations around the country.
In March 2021, Wayfair closed a call center near Elmira, N.Y., and had all of its employees work virtually.
“Like many companies, we have seen an increase in employees effectively transitioning to remote work, driven in part by the COVID-19 global pandemic and cost savings effort,” she said.
Developer David Carver, who owns the Clock Tower Business Center through Clock Tower Partners LLC, could not be reached for comment.