Nike and Apple lead ranks of retailers temporarily closing U.S. stores during coronavirus crisis
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The chorus of retailers temporarily closing their U.S. stores or cutting hours is growing by the day as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates.
Nike said on Sunday it would close all of its stores in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand starting Monday through March 27 to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. The sportswear company, which has almost 400 U.S. stores, said its stores in South Korea, Japan, and most of China, markets where the outbreak is past peak, have re-opened. Under Armour is also losing its stores.
Abercrombie & Fitch, which also operates the Hollister chain, said it will shut its stores through March 28th. And in an ominous sign for many mall-based clothing retailers, Abercrombie on Sunday morning withdrew its 2020 sales forecast, saying there was too much uncertainty over the duration of the outbreak but that “it expects material adverse impacts.” (The Gap Inc said on Thursday it had already lost $100 million in sales in Asia alone this quarter.)
Late Friday, Apple said it was shutting its stores in the U.S. and other Western markets through March 27 for a total of 450 locations in the tech company’s fleet.
“The most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in a statement posted on Apple’s website. All of the company’s stores in China have re-opened.
Last week, a host of retailers, large and small—Patagonia, Urban Outfitters, Warby Parker, Glossier, Everlane and Allbirds—among others made similar announcements. Like Nike, Apple and Abercrombie said they will continue to pay staff while stores are closed.
Some retailers so far have opted instead for shortened hours. Walmart, the largest U.S. grocer by far, said this weekend that starting March 15, Walmart’s stores, as well as its Neighborhood Markets locations which are smaller but focused much more on food, would be open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice to allow workers to re-stock shelves and clean the locations. The retailer has seen a run on many stores as shoppers stock up on essentials. Walmart said on Friday it would offer some of its parking lots to the federal government as a place to conduct coronovirus testing. Stop and Shop and Publix as well as Kroger have also announced shorter business hours.
Lululemon Athletica had initially cut hours but will now close entirely through the 27th, the company said on Sunday.
According to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the outbreak, there have been at least 156,400 cases of the new coronavirus reported globally as of Sunday morning, and at least 5,833 deaths. In the United States, authorities are coming under pressure to minimize how much exposure people have to one another. Hoboken, New Jersey, for example, imposed a curfew and closed bars and gyms, among other businesses, this weekend.
The pressure on large national retailers is likely to grow because of such moves.
Vibhu Norby, the CEO of tech retailer b8ta, on Saturday tweeted a letter from the management of Simon Property Group’s King of Prussia mall in suburban Philadelphia, the second largest in the U.S., to its tenants. They letter told those businesses it expected them to comply with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s recommendation last week that all non-essential retail—meaning any store other than a gas station, a grocer or a drugstore—close. A spokeswoman for Simon, which owns the King of Prussia mall, did not immediately to a Fortune request for comment.
The retailers that have announced temporary store closings all touted their e-commerce stores as a substitute. Yet many chains rely on stores as key distribution and order retrieval points in their e-commerce networks, so the closings will be a major test of their digital infrastructure.
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