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‘I got this wrong:’ Shopify CEO announces plan to layoff 10 per cent of staff

Layoffs come as buyers revert to pre-pandemic shopping habits
Shopify Inc. says it will layoff 10 per cent of its workforce because the company misjudged the growth of e-commerce. Shopify Inc. headquarters signage in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canadian tech giant Shopify Inc. will layoff 10 per cent of its workforce Tuesday because the company misjudged the growth of e-commerce.

The Ottawa e-commerce company’s chief executive Tobi Lütke said in a blog post that most of the staff impacted by the cut work in recruiting, support and sales.

Shopify will also eliminate “overspecialized and duplicate” roles as well as groups that Lütke said were “convenient to have but too far removed from building products.”

The company is carrying out the cuts because the COVID-19 pandemic created a surge in demand for Shopify’s software as consumers shifted to making a higher number of purchases online, Lütke said.

Shopify bet the amount of shopping people did online instead of at brick-and-mortar retailers would leap ahead by five or 10 years from pre-pandemic predictions.

“We couldn’t know for sure at the time, but we knew that if there was a chance that this was true, we would have to expand the company to match,” Lütke said.

“It’s now clear that bet didn’t pay off.”

Shopify has recently seen people are reverting to pre-pandemic shopping habits. While e-commerce is still growing steady, Lütke said it doesn’t amount to a five-year leap ahead, forcing Shopify to make cuts.

“Ultimately, placing this bet was my call to make and I got this wrong. Now, we have to adjust,” said Lütke.

“As a consequence, we have to say goodbye to some of you today and I’m deeply sorry for that.”

Shopify is not alone in laying off workers. Over the last few months, Wealthsimple, Klarna, Twitter and Netflix have all shed staff as investor exuberance around tech stocks has faded, inflation has soared to an almost 40-year high and recession rumours have loomed.

Data aggregator has counted 401 startups that have laid off a collective 57,552 employees so far this year.

Amid a broad market sell-off that has particularly weighed on the tech sector, the price of Shopify’s stock has sunk more than 70 per cent since its late 2021 peak of $2,228.73. It sat at $40.40 in mid-morning trading Tuesday.

Those affected by Tuesday’s layoff will get 16 weeks of severance pay, plus an additional week for every year of tenure at Shopify. The company will also remove any equity cliff — a minimum amount of period workers have to stay at a company before they can start receiving equity.

Laid off workers will get access to career coaching, interviewing support, resume crafting services and Shopify will cover some of their internet costs during the severance period.

Workers will also be able to keep their home office furniture the company gave them a stipend for earlier in the pandemic and will give a “kick-start allowance” that can be used to buy new laptops.

Companies in this story: (TSX:SHOP)

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

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