Jobs may walk out the door at Nike

A display of Air Force One lows and mids sit stacked on racks in Niketown in Portland. Tuesday, shoe and apparel company Nike, Inc. said it is realigning its business and could cut up to 1,400 jobs.<BR><I>Associated Press</i>

PORTLAND - Shoe and apparel company Nike Inc. said Tuesday that it may cut up to 1,400 jobs as part of a restructuring.

The company said it is realigning its business and as part of that, could cut up to 4 percent of its work force. Nike employs nearly 35,000 people worldwide.

The Beaverton -based company reorganized its business two years ago to increase sales and says this decision is the next step in that strategy.

The news is a blow in Oregon, where the unemployment rate in December was 9 percent, the highest in nearly a quarter century.

Nike says the exact number, timing and location of the positions to be eliminated will not be known until a review of its entire business is complete at the end of May, when its fiscal year ends.

"In light of the current economic climate, it is more essential than ever to sharpen our focus on the consumer," Nike President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker said in a statement.

Nike, which is the world's largest maker of athletic footwear and clothing, said it will look at its entire supply chain from the source to retail stores to ensure it is positioned as well as possible to survive in the increasingly difficult economic environment.

Parker said the Nike brand and the company's portfolio of other brands, which include Converse, Cole Haan and Umbro, "continue to be a competitive strength." He said the work force reduction was a difficult choice but will put the business in a strong position to keep growing.

Nike has consistently grown its profit and been a darling of investors. But in recent quarters, the company began to show the pressures of the recession as its sales slowed, particularly in the United States, where consumers are cutting back sharply on discretionary purchases.

Nike's strong growth overseas continued, but its profits have been hampered by the dollar's strength.

Nike previously took other steps to control costs, such as implementing a hiring freeze and cutting travel and other operating expenses. It also tightened its inventory controls.

Shares of Nike fell $2.72, or nearly 6 percent, in trading Tuesday to close at $45.05. In after-hours trading, shares fell 25 cents to $44.80.

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