New Economic Realities   //   June 12, 2024

Tupperware is shutting down its only U.S. manufacturing plant & laying off 148 workers

Tupperware is closing its U.S. manufacturing plant in South Carolina and laying off 148 workers, per a WARN notice dated June 11.

The notice — which companies are required to file when enacting large-scale cuts — lists “permanent closure” as a reason behind the layoffs. The address on file belongs to Tupperware’s only manufacturing plant in the U.S., although it has other manufacturing locations in Belgium, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Portugal, China, India and South Africa. The layoffs are scheduled for January 14, 2025.

After publication of this story, a spokesperson for Tupperware told Modern Retail that the layoffs are part of a multi-year strategy to simplify Tupperware’s supply chain. “We sold our Hemingway [South Carolina] facility last year and will be transitioning manufacturing operations by year end to our Lerma, Mexico plant, which already produces the bulk of the products for our U.S. and Canada markets,” they said via email. “We plan to invest in new distribution services through a new, state-of-the-art third-party logistics facility in the Midwest U.S. The transition is happening in phases throughout the remainder of the year.”

The spokesperson added, “Tupperware has always been a business focused on people, so we will take important steps to take care of our Hemingway team during this transition by offering early retirement and severance packages to eligible employees, providing outplacement services and working with other businesses on a job fair for potential employment opportunities.”

The cuts at Tupperware follow a turbulent year for the nearly 80-year-old company. Last April, Tupperware warned it had “substantial doubt” about its ability to stay in business. At the time, it said it was bringing on financial advisors to help improve its capital structure and secure extra financing. Tupperware also said it would review its real estate portfolio while exploring options to “preserve or deliver additional liquidity.” That announcement came days after the New York Stock Exchange warned that Tupperware’s stock was in danger of being delisted after the company failed to file a mandatory annual report.

Regarding the company’s turnaround plans, then-Tupperware Brands CEO Miguel Fernandez said at the time that Tupperware was taking a “critical step” to address its capital and liquidity position. “The Company is doing everything in its power to mitigate the impacts of recent events, and we are taking immediate action to seek additional financing and address our financial position,” he said in a statement in April 2023.

Four months later — in August 2023 — Tupperware said it had reached a deal with creditors to reduce its interest payment obligations by $150 million. It also secured $21 million in new financing, extended its deadline for paying back some $348 million in debt and reduced the amount of debt it owed by around $55 million, per CNN.

Then, six months later, Tupperware announced it had entered into a forbearance agreement with lenders, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Last week, Bloomberg Law reported that Tupperware had agreed with lenders to amend the terms of its forbearance pact, extending the “milestone for entry into a definitive agreement with respect to certain repayment transactions” from May 22 to June 22.

Tupperware, which launched in 1946, has struggled to keep up with competition in recent years. The company’s business is primarily driven by direct sales, a model that’s become more difficult to sustain due to the rise of e-commerce juggernauts like Amazon. In 2022, Tupperware opened an Amazon storefront and launched in Target. But global sales failed to pick up.

“They have the assets, and the brand is one of the most iconic brands in retail,” Aaron Sorensen, partner, chief behavioral scientist and head of transformation at Lotis Blue Consulting, told Modern Retail in September 2023. “But what seemingly they underestimated was how hard it would be to build an omnichannel ecosystem.”

Four years ago, Tupperware did enjoy a brief pandemic-related boom. Sales surged as people looked for containers in which to store food they made at home. In late 2020, Tupperware said its third quarter profit quadrupled to $34.4 million. However, Tupperware failed to maintain momentum. It struggled due to Covid-19-related lockdowns in China, the rising price of resin and slumping consumer demand due to inflation.

Tupperware has delayed filing earnings reports over the last year. Its most recent filing, posted in March 2024 for the third quarter of 2023, said net sales between Sept. 24, 2022 and Sept. 30, 2023 were down 16% year over year.

This story has been updated with a comment from Tupperware. It’s also been updated to reflect that Tupperware no longer has manufacturing plants in Greece, France, Japan and the Philippines.