Morphe Cosmetics, the makeup brand once synonymous with YouTube beauty culture, confirmed it on Thursday closure all of its U.S. stores — a move that shocked employees, angered customers and left some experts questioning the brand’s future.
The news came after a handful of the company’s employees took to TikTok over the holidays to report the company’s lack of transparency in the layoffs, with many using the hashtag “#justiceformorpheretailemployees.” Viewers quickly responded in support, blasting the brand for allegedly leaving employees in the dark when stores ran out of inventory.
Some beauty experts said the news isn’t surprising given the company’s years of financial and legal trouble and reputational damage. The brand’s treatment of employees during the shutdown could further damage its reputation among Gen Z consumers, who have demonstrated their distaste for Morphe.
“Gen Z makes purchasing decisions based on their values,” said Hana Ben-Shabat, founder of research firm Gen Z Planet and author of Gen Z 360: Preparing for the Inevitable Change in Culture, Work and Commerce. These values include buying from companies that prioritize diversity, reduce environmental impact and treat their employees right.
The company, which launched in 2008 and bills itself as “Makeup for Creatives” on its social platforms, has had its share of controversy for years.
Morphe, which is owned by Forma Brands, has been embroiled in employee controversies, including accusations of racism against Jeffree Star and allegations that James Charles sent sexual messages to minors.
A spokesperson for Forma Brands did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
In a statement on Twitter, Morphe wrote that the company is “forever grateful to our store teams for their passion, talent and dedication over the years.”
According to Ben-Shabat, the younger consumers that Morphe built its brand on have moved away from the mega-influencers.
Last year, Morphe also faced several lawsuits over unpaid rent at one of its retail locations, false advertising and a lack of support for its subsidiaries. According to Wendy Musell, a civil rights attorney on the case and co-founder of the Law Offices of Wendy Musell, the way the brand handles closures could also open it up to more legal problems.
Recent backlash against the brand has spread to other social media platforms, including Morphe’s Instagram page.
“This is one of my favorite makeup companies and seeing a tank like this is ridiculous and the way you treat your store staff so badly makes me mad,” one user wrote on the brand’s latest Instagram post. writing from December 1.
People on Twitter, where the brand muted replies to its tweet announcing the store closures, called the closings heartbreaking.
“I’ve worked here for a year and a half and I’m just sad,” said one user he wrote.
Morphe employees raised the alarm for weeks
Some of Morphe’s retail workers said they were shocked that the company had fired them so suddenly — with several workers telling NBC News they received a day’s notice before losing their jobs.
Three employees who spoke to NBC News said their stores were quickly cleared of product after the deeply discounted sales that began after Black Friday. Employees said they became concerned after Morphe stopped shipping products to their location. An employee at Morphe’s Oregon location said the company’s delays in stocking stores were due to shipping issues.
Now former employees said Tuesday’s Zoom call announced the closings and that the remaining stores will be closed through Saturday.
TikToks under the hashtag #justiceformorpheretailemployees garnered more than 7.5 million views, though some of the viral videos about the store closing have been deleted.
Kim, a Morphe employee who asked that her full name not be used for fear of losing her severance pay, said she was advised to delete her TikToks in connection with the store closing to secure her severance pay.
Kim said she is passionate about the brand because it embraces and supports all makeup artists. He called his colleagues “the kindest, most supportive, creative people anyone has ever met.”
“It’s not just a job, it’s your dream,” Kim said of working at Morphe. “It’s your second life in a way – for some people it’s their first.”
Kim said managers will get three weeks off work, while beauty artists, the name given to Morphine’s retail staff, will get two weeks off. As of Friday, Morphe employees who spoke to NBC News said they had not yet received their severance packages.
Musell said workers need to understand their rights under federal and state laws. He said a one-day notice for mass layoffs could put a company in violation of the U.S. Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act and labor laws in California, where Morphe has 11 stores.
The value of severance packages to an employer, Musell said, “is that the employee has to give up all of their legal rights, and that buys peace. … But those workers may want to investigate whether the WARN Act has been violated, and whether they are entitled to at least 60 days’ pay, Musell said.
“end of an era” for Morphe
Between 2016 and 2019, Morphe rose to prominence during YouTube’s beauty heyday. She was at the forefront of a maximalist makeup style that was falling out of favor with consumers, especially the Gen Z audience, who were leaning towards a more minimalist approach to beauty. and skin care.
“They didn’t react to it quickly because they were built on that craft,” Ben-Shabat said, referring to the creative maximum look that Morphe is known for.
Morphe has also seen sales decline over the past two years. Business of Fashion reported that the brand’s sales fell from $500 million in 2020 to $295 million in 2021. Parent company Forma Brands also considered filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October. Ben-Shabat said the store’s closing indicates that sales continue to decline.
“Many consumer brands that are starting out online are realizing that stores are important, and many of them are opening stores,” he said. “So a lot of DTC (direct-to-consumer) brands are kind of acknowledging that maybe the DTC model isn’t what it used to be anymore and that there’s value in having stores, Morphe is closing stores.”
While Morphe continues to fight for relevance, employees like Kim are left to figure out their next steps. Many are still reeling from the news of sudden job losses, while others are trying to secure employment elsewhere.
Rather than dwelling on the loss of her dream job, Kim said she chose to look back on her achievements at Morphe.
“We’re at the end of an era, and that’s how I look at it,” Kim said. “I’m grateful that I got here and I’m grateful that I was able to get myself out.”