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How Retailers Are Responding to COVID-19: A Timeline

Coronavirus has hit the world—and the retail industry—hard. Some retailers are grappling with empty stores. Others with empty shelves. Some are just trying to stay afloat. All strive to serve their customers, the workforce, and their communities. 

As a partner to many in the retail industry, we’re gathering and sharing stories of how retailers are evolving their policies and communication in response to coronavirus in real time.

We’ll update the live blog regularly with links to important industry stories. If you’d like to share your business’s story or you come across other stories that move you, we’d love to hear from you. Please reach out to heidis@cb4.com.

 

May 7, 2020

Neiman Marcus Group is the first department store to file for bankruptcy protection in the wake of the pandemic. The Dallas-based, 42-store luxury chain has secured $675 million in financing from creditors, and expects an additional $750 million as a result of the filing. In a statement, the retailer said it hopes to emerge from bankruptcy in “early fall.” 

  • Initial numbers are in for foot traffic at reopened stores. 

Reuters reports that foot traffic at U.S. retail locations increased last week in states where guidelines for operating stores relaxed. Overall, retail saw a 15% foot traffic increase for the week ending Sunday, May 3 from the week prior. The number is 40% blow estimates for retail foot traffic the year before, but points to shoppers’ willingness to patronize stores as restrictions are lifted. The findings are based on cellphone tracking information from data firm Unacast. 

 

May 6, 2020

Since 2009, JC Penney has been home to 600 Sephora shop-in-shops. The partnership, which was set to continue through April 2021, is now getting heated. JC Penney & Co. filed as temporary restraining order against Sephora, accusing the beauty retailer of attempting to exit the contract early and refusing to reopen with JCP. Sephora denied the claim with an emergency motion to dissolve. Both parties said they have been involved in “good faith wind-down discussions” as JCP eyes bankruptcy. 

  • Sprouts announces post-pandemic long-term growth strategy.

In a presentation of their fourth-quarter earnings, Sprouts Farmers Markets CEO Jack Sinclair and CFO Denise Paulonis shared the grocers’ long-term vision. The plan includes smaller, more densely clustered stores that offer more innovation and health-driven food discover, fewer self-serve stations, an emphasis on digital marketing and everyday values over commodity price promotions, and a lower-cost supply chain, says Winsight Grocery Business. The decisions, they said, were both previously planned and also informed by COVID-19-related changes in consumer behavior.

 

May 5, 2020

  • Lord and Taylor will allegedly run liquidation sales before permanently closing stores. 

Reuters reports that “people familiar with the matter” have said that once restrictions are lifted, Lord & Taylor plans to reopen 38 stores and run liquidation sales before closing all stores. The anonymous sources said department store chain, founded in 1826, is still exploring the possibility of acquiring external funding or other intervention to stay in business. Lord & Taylor declined to comment.

 

May 4, 2020

J. Crew Group becomes the first retailer to file for bankruptcy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Temporary store closings put the owner of the J. Crew and Madewell brands over the edge. Prior to the health crisis, J. Crew Group had amassed $1.7 billion in debt.

  • Kroger offers free COVID-19 testing for employees. 

The Kroger Co. has announced that starting this month, free COVID-19 tests will be available for employees at stores, distribution centers, and other facilities. Kroger will offer self-administered test kits or appointments at drive-thru testing sites run by Kroger’s health care division to employees based on symptoms and medical need. 

 

May 1, 2020

  • Costco will require all shoppers to wear face masks. 

While other retailers are encouraging shoppers to wear face masks, Costco is the first major retailer to make wearing face masks in store mandatory. Acknowledging that some shoppers may object to the new rule, Costco President and CEO Craig Jelinek says it will protect shoppers and employees alike. 

 

April 30, 2020

  • Macy’s will open 68 stores on Monday, and plans for all stores to open within six weeks.

Macy’s has announced plans to gradually open their chain of roughly 775 stores, with modified protocols to precent the spread of infection. Noteworthy changes include “no touch beauty consultations, enhanced cleaning, and a 24-hold on items that have been tried on in fitting rooms as well as on returned goods. CEO Jeff Gennette told The Wall Street Journal that he expects open stores to do less than a fifth of their normal sales volume at first. 

 

April 29, 2020

  • Best Buy will open select stores for appointments only. 

Best Buy has announced that 200 of its 1,000 US stores will reopen next month for appointments only. Customers will be able to schedule appointments by phone, website, or mobile app in advance.The retailer will maintain social distancing protocols and provide protective gear like face masks and gloves for employees and initiate mandatory health checks prior to each shift.

 

April 27, 2020

  • CVS and UPS partner to offer drone deliveries to retirees.

CVS and UPS are partnering to offer Matternet’s M2 drone delivery service to the nation’s largest retirement community. The Villages, which is home to more than 135,000 retirees, will have access to prescription medications via drone starting next month. Matternet is part of the Boeing HorizonX investment portfolio, which started partnering with UPS last year. 

 

April 24, 2020

  • Publix finds a way to help farmers and families in need.

While diminished restaurant and hotel demand is forcing farmers to throw away unsold produce, many disadvantaged American families are going hungry. Publix has announced they’re buying excess milk and produce from farmers for donation to Feeding America food banks in the seven states in which the grocer operates. 

 

April 23, 2020

  • Target‘s online sales are up by 275 percent. 

Although Target locations remain open, the retailer has seen a decline in in-store sales. Online sales, on the other hand, which include curbside pickup, have made up for the loss. Overall, the business is up 7% for the February-April quarter thus far. 

 

April 22, 2020

Despite the investments its competitors are making in omni-channel services like curbside pickup and grocery delivery, Trader Joe’s will continue its more traditional approach. The reason, said TJ’s Vice President of Marketing Matt Sloan on the grocer’s podcast, is that it will continue to invest in its people instead.

 

April 21, 2020

  • Retail workers plan protests against covid working conditions. 

According to USA Today, frontline workers at Amazon and Target are planning to call out from work to draw attention to the health risks they face on the job and a perceived lack of sufficient measures to protect them.

  • Macy’s considers taking on $5 billion in debt.

CNBC reports that in a big to avoid bankruptcy, Macy’s is considering raising $5 billion in debt. In this case, Macy’s will use its inventory as collateral to raise $3 billion and real estate (excluding the Herald Square flagship) to raise $1-$2 billion. 

 

April 20, 2020

  • Michael’s to launch curbside pickup and same-day delivery 

Craft retailer Michael’s has announced it will roll out curbside pickup this week, followed by contactless same-day delivery from select US stores. 

 

April 19, 2020

Vox media reports that Dallas-based luxury department store Neiman Marcus could file for bankruptcy this week. The company, which is $4.3 billion in debt, had to close all 43 locations and furlough most of its 14,000 employees. The filing will allow the chain to remain in business while it closes underperforming stores. 

 

April 17, 2020

The retailer has announced a $250 million investment in omni-channel operations. Areas of expansion include buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup, omni-inventory management, and digital marketing and personalization. The retailer will temporarily convert around a quarter their closed of stores into regional fulfillment centers to more efficiently meet rising e-comm demand.

 

April 16, 2020

  • DSW partners with Hy-Vee to incorporate footwear into essential retail.

In an unconventional partnership, DSW will ship top-selling family footwear to be displayed and sold from pallets at 120 Hy-Vee grocery locations. Shoppers can buy the shoes from DSW’s site and pick them up in store, via curbside pickup, or have them delivered home with their groceries. 

 

April 15, 2020

  • Best Buy furloughs $51,000 associates in the face of 30% sales decline

Since Best Buy’s quick-thinking pivot to curbside-only service, the retailer’s year-to-year sales decreased by about 30%. Best Buy is also reducing marketing, promotional, and capital spend, extending payment terms with select vendors, and suspending 401K matching. On the positive side, 82% of Best Buy’s full-time store and field employees remain intact. 

 

April 14, 2020

  • Hermès reportedly sees sales surge upon reopening in China.

If one Hermès boutique’s sales are any indication, luxury consumers may be eager to get back in the shopping game. WWD reports that the flagship rung in $2.7M in sales during its first day back in business. 

 

April 13, 2020

  • Retailers reveal how demand has changed each week of the pandemic. 

We’re over the toilet paper stage of the virus outbreak. According to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and others, this is the week of hair clippers and dye. 

  • Amazon wait lists new online grocery and shrinks some Whole Foods store hours. 

In order to better serve more shoppers, Amazon puts new online grocery shoppers on a wait list. The e-comm giant also announced the some Whole Goods will have reduced store hours to better fulfill online grocery orders. 

 

April 10, 2020

Dick’s will furlough 40,000 workers starting on Sunday. The retailers will retain a small portion of its workforce to continue curbside and e-commerce fulfillment. Dick’s hopes to bring employees back once its 800+ stores reopen to the public, but acknowledges that this won’t happen “anytime soon.”

 

April 9, 2020

  • Levi’s shares its COVID-19 bounceback strategy.

In the brand’s Q1 earnings call on Tuesday, Levi’s president and CEO Chip Bergh shared the brands plan to emerge from the pandemic swinging. A new technology from Levi’s Eureka Innovation Lab creates photo-realistic 3D renderings of its apparel and samples. In a post-pandemic world, this allowed the brand to sell to merchants from images, rather than physical samples. Bergh noted that  “this may have been the best assortment meeting ever, and we may never go back to living meetings.” Bergh also discussed the brand’s emphasis on core merchandise, which constitutes 70 percent of its inventory, and should provide some buoyancy. 

  • Gap reportedly halts vendor orders for stores for summer and fall

While vendor orders for e-comm will remain intact, reports indicate that Gap is cancelling in-store orders for the summer and halting production for the fall. 

 

April 8, 2020

  • Albertsons wants its employees classified as first responders. 

On the heels of a string of reported COVID-related deaths of supermarket workers, Albertsons and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union are calling on government officials to to temporarily designate supermarket associates as “extended first responders” or “emergency personnel.” Obtaining this title would give workers priority in gaining access to COVID-19 testing.

  • Retail imports are at a five-year low.

NRF reports that at major US retail container ports, imports hit a five-year low in March and are expected to remain below normal levels through early summer. Unfortunately, this impacts many essential items that consumers need now. In addition, due to store closures, cargo may sit longer than usual and further impact the supply chain. 

  • Nike begins manufacturing personal protective equipment. 

Nike announced that its innovation, manufacturing, and product teams developed face shields and powered, air-purifying respirators in partnership with Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). The first shipment arrived at OHSU last week, and the equipment will be distributed to nearby medical systems. 

 

April 7, 2020

  • Major supermarket chains report staff COVID-19 deaths. 

Trader Joes, Walmart, and Giant have reported employees deaths related to the pandemic. These will present new challenges for how grocers communicate with the public and protect and retain their workforce as the crisis continues to unfold.

  • Walgreens announces 15 new drive-thru testing sites. 

Since the White House announced that some major pharmacy chains would open drive-thru testing in parking lots more than three weeks ago, only a handful of sites have opened with limited capacity. Now, Walgreens has announced that 15 new sites across seven states will open later this week. The retailer selected site locations in partnership with the Department of Health based on rising COVID-19 hot spots. 

  • Rising egg prices compound food retailers’ budgeting and planning challenges. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that wholesale egg prices have more than tripled since early March due to limited supply. Because of the rise in demand and the time it takes to raise egg-laying hens, units on hand will likely remain lean and further squeeze grocer’s profit margins. 

 

April 6, 2020

  • With stores closed, some retailers grapple with rent payments. 

While some retailers like Urban Outfitters, PVH, and Pier 1 announced they’ll suspend rent payments for April, others are doing so behind closed doors. A CEO of one of the nation’s largest real estate developers told CNBC that 26% of his retail tenants paid rent on April 1. 

  • Walmart joins target in limiting in-store foot traffic. 

Walmart will allow no more than 5 customers per 1,000 square feet, which represents about 20% of stores’ total capacity. When stores reach capacity, shoppers will wait on a queue to enter. In the store, there will be floor markers to create one-way movement, a practice other essential retailers are adopting. 

 

April 3, 2020

  • Target will meter shoppers to uphold social distancing recommendations. 

Starting this Saturday, Target will monitor customer count in all stores. When a store’s occupancy limit is exceeded, shoppers can expect to wait in designated areas outside with store with physical distancing markers in place. Once inside, associates will guide shoppers through the store and keep checkout moving efficiently. 

 

April 2, 2020

  • Regional retailers find ways to support their local communities. 

Maryland-based convenience store chain, Dash In, is providing four $50,000 unrestricted grants to support Mid-Atlantic food banks dealing trying to meet unprecedented demand. 

Utah-based chain, Harmons Grocery, is distributing 3,300 free thermometers to drive-thru pharmacy customers in partnership with an anonymous donor. 

  • Walgreens expands home delivery to the continental US. 

Building on a pilot they launched last year in New York City, Walgreens and Postmates now offer delivery for health and wellness items to  shoppers in cities across the country. Nearly 7,000 Walgreens stores are now participating, up from 1,700 last month.

  • True Value is manufacturing its own hand sanitizer and other essential cleaning products. 

Noting nationwide shortages, True Value has registere with the FDA to produce essential cleaning and sanitizing products at its plant in Cary, Illinois. Beginning in mid-April, the goods will be shipped to True Value stores to both donate and sell. 

 

April 1, 2020

  • Retailers rethink benefits for hourly workers. 

Retailers like Trader Joes and Walmart are rethinking benefits policies in light of the global health crisis. If the changes stick, it’s possible that the pandemic will lead us to more economically resilience in the face of crisis than ever before.  

  • Apparel brands step up to help. 

Despite store closures, apparel manufacturers from Gap to Burberry and everything in between are using their factories and resources to produce sorely needed medical equipment to those on the frontline. 

  • Costco limits members to plus 1s only

In an effort to protect shoppers and employees, Costco announced that beginning Friday, each membership card will admit only two people to its US warehouses. 

  • Kroger reports that comps are skyrocketing.

Kroger’s same-store growth for March was up by 30% from last year. While much of the jump was due to large initial stock-up shops, travel and dining restrictions have kept numbers relatively steady. At the same time, Kroger reports that it’s costs are also soaring as a result of the pandemic. 

  • 7-Eleven protects workers and donates 1 million masks.

The convenience giant provided all company-owned stores and franchisees with ample masks to protect employees. Then, they donated 1 million masks to the medical community via FEMA.

  • Tesco optimizes for delivery. 

UK’s largest retailer, Tesco, has upped its delivery and click and collect capacity to around 780,00 a week from 660,000 two weeks ago. The retailer plans to add more capacity in the weeks to come. In the last week and a half, Tesco has hired more than 35,000 new associates to help with the effort. 

 

March 31, 2020

  • Publix offers rent relief. 

To soften the economic impact of unexpected store closures, Publix will offer tenants of its 282 shopping centers rent relief for two months. 

  • Walmart will check employee temperatures at the start of each shift. 

Walmart workers who have a temperature of 100 or higher will be asked to stay home or seek medical care, and won’t be able to return to work until they have been fever-free for three days or more. The retailer is now shipping infrared thermometers, gloves, and masks to all stores and distribution and fulfillment centers, prioritizing COVID-19 hotspots.

  • Shoppers can now get more than prescriptions at Walgreens drive-thrus.

As long as they don’t have a line, pharmacists at Walgreens’ 7,300 drive-thru locations are now helping shoppers access 60,000 “essential items” like cleaning supplies and select groceries.

 

March 30, 2020

  • Macy’s & others furlough the bulk of their workforce. 

Major retailers Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Gap announce large-scale furloughs. Macy’s will furlough 125,000 people, while Gap and Kohl’s will furlough about 80,000. In all cases, employees will continue to receive applicable benefits for the time being, with hopes of bringing back workers once stores open. 

  • H&M supports factories in Bangladesh. 

While other apparel sellers have cancelled payments on orders in progress, H&M says they will accept delivery of goods that are already produced and those that are in production, despite cancelling future orders.  

  • Kroger pilots a pick-up only store. 

Kroger has opened a pick-up only store near the brand’s headquarters in Ohio. While others Kroger locations offer in-store pickup, the Mt. Carmel Grocery Pick-up Center is the only one that’s closed to walk-ins. 

 

March 27, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak isn’t stopping Lululemon. Their plan to double men’s revenue and digital growth by 2023 and quadruple international revenue remains intact, and all but one store in China has reopened for business. While stores in newly affected markets remain closed, the brand is engaging customers with free workouts. At the same time, the brand is cutting expenses like travel and new hires, while working with landlords to delay some store openings and remodels. 

  • Top Wall Street retail analyst names chains that could come out stronger after the crisis. 

JP Morgan analyst Matthew Boss has reason to be optimistic about retail’s future. He told CNBC that for all retailers, the #1 theme is survival. Discounters, dollar stores, off-pricers and strong global brands are especially well-poised come out of the pandemic in fighting shape, says Boss. He named names Dollar General, Ross Stores, Nike, and others as industry highlights. 

 

March 26, 2020

  • Citing the ‘most difficult decision’ in the company’s history, Nordstrom temporarily furloughs some corporate employees.

In an effort to curb operating expenses, capital expenditures, and working capital by $500 million, Nordstrom has announced they’ll furlough some corporate employees for six weeks. Erik and Pete Nordstrom will forego their own salaries for six months. 

  • $15 billion in tax savings is on the horizon for some US retailers. 

Some hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, and other retailers stand to benefit from a possible change in tax code, which had been sought by the NRF and other lobbyists who had been pushing for this for over a year. 

  • Facing tough choices, DSW comes to a decision

DSW’s parent company Designer Brands Inc. has placed 80% 0f its 61,000-person workforce on unpaid leave effective March 29th. The employees who are not placed on leave will get pay reductions. Employees will continue to receive medical and dental benefits. 

  • Apple may begin reopening stores in April. 

Bloomberg reports that in an internal memo to employees, Apple’s Senior VP of People and Retail said stores outside greater China retail stores may reopen on a staggered basis starting in the first half of April. This will likely come as a relief to customers who did not pick up repaired devices before the retailer closed its doors. 

 

March 25, 2020

Effective today, the two retailers will work together to devote company time and resources to making protective masks, gowns, and scrubs for health care workers. The first shipment is scheduled to go out later this week. 

Aldi Germany has partnered with McDonalds Germany to convert McDonalds workers whose hours have been cut or reduced to temporary Aldi employees. This will keep McDonalds workforce employed, while helping Aldi meet “massive demand” for at-home food during the pandemic. 

  • Nike says digital gains offset retail losses. 

In promising retail news of the day, Nike says the sales plunge they suffered beginning in February when they closed stores in China was balanced by a spike in online demand. The company is also seeing early momentum in South Korea and Japan, where they also experienced temporary closures, and the expect to see the same in US and Europe. 

  • Albertsons installs Plexiglas to checkouts to keep shoppers and their workforce safe. 

Over the next two weeks, all Albertsons stores and all owned banners will receive Plexiglas checkout barriers between customers and associates. The measure will offer a little extra reassurance to those who visit or work in Albertsons stores. 

 

March 24, 2020

  • Apparel sellers prepare for markdowns. 

CNN Business shares what everyone knows: that a glut of unsold spring apparel is coming. Retailers will likely use a variety of venues to move the merchandise, including online channels and factory stores. Although discount chains like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross take a hit now, they’ll likely reap the benefit of scooping up apparel at low prices once summer and fall hit. 

 

March 23, 2020

  • More retailers announce hiring sprees.

Dollar General and CVS Health announce they’ll hire 50,000 workers a piece. For CVS, this includes store associates, home delivery drivers, distribution center employees, and customer service professionals. Roles will be hired via virtual job fairs and interviews. 

 

March 21, 2020

  • Supermarkets step up for their associates. 

Stop & Shop and Wegmans are two of a group of heroic grocers offering their store staff raises for showing up and serving shoppers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Stop & Shop is giving workers a 10% pay raise and two weeks of sick leave, while Wegman’s is providing an additional $2/hour, creating a job-protected leave program, and taking other measures to keep workers safe. 

 

March 20, 2020

  • H-E-B gives seniors personal shoppers. 

H-E-B is giving seniors access to personal shoppers starting today, via their partnership with Favor. Shoppers 60 and over can call H-E-B and Favor’s “Senior Support” phone line or app to place orders for a curated lift of food and supplies available at H-E-B. In areas where the service is not yet available, the grocer is working with local nonprofits to provide vulnerable people with support. 

  • Costco modifies return policy to combat hoarding.

Costco’s new policy prohibits returns on toilet paper, paper towels, sanitizing wipes, bottled water, Lysol cleaners, and rice. The move will likely reduce hoarding in an effort to serve more shoppers, allow the retailer to maintain sanitization standards, and keep store staff focused on ringing and re-stocking. 

  • “Essential retail” is on a hiring spree.

Walmart announces they’ll hire 150,00 new associates to work in stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers. The roles will be temporary at first, but many will convert to permanent opportunities over time.

7-Eleven says they expect to hire as many as 20,000 new employees to help the convenience giant ensure that directly-owned and franchise stores are clean and in-stock, and help the retailer meet a surge in mobile orders through its 7Now delivery app. 

Kroger, Save A Lot, and others will do the same. 

In preparation for softening demand in spring and summer, 136-year-old UK department store Marks & Spencer cancelled £100m-worth of clothing orders. The retailer expects “a return to normal trading in the autumn,” according to The Guardian.

 

March 19, 2020

VICE and others report that GameStop sent employees a memo saying that their stores constitute “essential retail” and should therefore remain open in light of local ordinances to close non-essential retail establishments. The memo reportedly directs employees to have local authorities call GameStop’s corporate office with objections. GameStop could not be reached for comment. 

  • The Gap announces store closures. 

The Gap, Inc. says it will temporarily shut down all Old Navy, Banana Republic, Gap, Athleta, Janie and Jack, and intermix stores in North America and pay workers for a period of two weeks. 

  • NRF urges federal government to provide relief for retailers. 

In a letter to President Trump and other government leaders, National Retail Federation CEO and President Matthew Shay called for mandatory default and foreclosure stays or federally ordered rent abatement for retailers facing closure, amongst other things. 

  • DTC brands rethink their physical retail presence. 

According to The Verge, direct-to-consumer mattress purveyor Tuft & Needle has closed all six of their retail stores and let got a portion of its staff, with hopes to rehire those employees once the stores reopen. Heidi Zak, CEO of bra company ThirdLove, emailed the company to say that the brand is “no longer planning to support a retail strategy” and will let retail employees go with severance and extended benefits. 

  • John Lewis explores new ways to connect with socially isolated shoppers. 

UK retailer John Lewis reveals they’re exploring digital services including online wellbeing, craft and cooking sessions to combat loneliness among socially isolated customers. The retailers also announces £1 million Community Support Fund and protected shopping times for the elderly and vulnerable.

 

March 18, 2020

  • Fast fashion lends a hand.

The Inditex fashion group, owner of fast-fashion behemoth Zara, is using its resource to combat the spread of coronavirus. Based in Galicia, Spain, Inditex’s factories and logistics teams are donating masks and similar supplies they purchase directly to patients and medical workers in Spain. The company says they’re also looking into switching some textile-manufacturing capacity over to the production of health materials. 

  • Spikes in consumer demand extend beyond personal hygiene items and household staples. 

Best Buy tells the Star Tribune that they’re seeing an uptick in sales for work-at-home equipment like keyboards, monitors, and laptops. Freezers and refrigerators are also hot ticket items for the electronics seller. 

  • Cowen release initial numbers showing COVID-19’s impact on US retail foot traffic. 

CNN Business shares Cowen’s most recent data that US retail foot traffic decreased 3o.7% for the week ending Friday, compared to last year. 

The biggest mall owner in the U.S., Simon Property Group, announces that effective starting at 7pm all of its malls and outlet centers will be closed until March 29.

 

March 17, 2020

  • Federal trucker work rules temporarily suspended.

In an unprecedented move, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) lifted nationwide working hours-of-service laws for drivers moving supplies “in support of emergency relief efforts” related to COVID-19. With70% of the nation’s goods delivered by truck, this means truckers can more quickly replenish retailers and medical providers with critical supplies like food and disinfectants.  

  • AEO announces multifaceted support plan. 

The Pittsburgh-based apparel seller says they’ll compensate store associates while their US and Canada stores remain closed. At distribution centers, they’re maximizing cleaning measures and staggering shifts. They also set up a COVID-19 relief fund to help associates impacted by the health crisis and will provide support to impacted regions through their partnership with Good360.

 

March 16, 2020

  • More corporations find ways to help. 

LVMH announces they’re converting three perfume manufacturing facilities to produce hand sanitizer. By the end of the first week, LVMH will give 12 tons of hydroalcoholic gel at no charge to French authorities and the largest hospital system in Europe. 

  • Grocers set up special shopping hours for vulnerable community members. 

Noting the physically demanding and competitive shopping experience in stores, Woolworths of Australia announces they’ll open doors exclusively to the elderly and people with disability from 7am-8am. The supermarket had suspended home delivery in Victoria and in-store pick-up across Australia due to “extraordinary” demand. 

Look for more retailers to follow suit. 

 

March 14, 2020

  • Non-food retailers begin to close stores. 

Urban Outfitters, ApplePatagonia and others get ahead of the curve, and announce they’re closing all stores until the end of March…or longer. In each of these cases, store employees will continue to receive regular pay in accordance with business as usual. Patagonia’s will also shut down their website to protect all workers. 

  • Grocers re-strategize to meet demand.

Albertsons Cos. chief operating officer, Susan Morris, says surge in demand was more than expected. They opt to carry a smaller range of goods in hopes of speeding up the restocking process. 

Walmart, Wegmans, and H-E-B announce they’re narrowing hours at some locations to conduct deep cleanings and restock shelves. 

Meanwhile, smaller chains scramble to find unconventional suppliers and worry about getting their shelves stocked as suppliers prioritize bigger players. 

 

March 13, 2020

  • Major players announce they’re partnering with the federal government 

Walmart, Target, Walgreens, & CVS Health will make parking lot space available for drive-through Coronavirus tests. 

  • No guarantee on next-day delivery. 

Target interrupts next-day delivery for online orders. 

Amazon Prime Now, which delivers to some markets within a few hours, runs out of weekend delivery slots for certain cities, including New York. 

  • More good news from China

Apple reopens all stores in China, as CEO Tim Cook is “very optimistic” that the country has the virus under control. 

 

March 12, 2020

  • Added services get the kibosh

Ulta Beauty halts the in-store services its famous for, including skin, makeup, brow. Lash, and waxing services. The beauty behemoth also announces a “no-touch” approach to selling assistance like shade matching. 

  • Wawa partners with Red Cross to support the community.

The convenience retailer steps up by using their partnership with the Red Cross to provide customers and associates with health, safety, and preparedness tips in all stores and for download. Wawa creates a page on their website dedicate to Covid-19 FAQs, local store impact updates, and more. 

 

March 10, 2020

  • Supermarkets begin to ration staples.

Kroger limits online and in-store shoppers to five sanitizing, cold and flu products per order. They also suspend air travel for employees and recommend that internal and supplier meetings are conducted remotely.

Publix limits shoppers to two units of bleach, utensils, tissue, rubbing alcohol, and other similar products. 

Albertsons Cos. says its stores, including Safeway, Jewel-Osco, and Vons, are rationing popular products like hand sanitizers and household cleaners to four or five units, depending on the territory.

UK retailers like Tesco and Co-Op Group restrict purchase some shelf-stable goods like baked beans, bottled water, and long-life milk. 

  • Walmart announces new emergency leave policy

After a store associate in Cynthiana, Kentucky tests positive for coronavirus, the nation’s largest private employer announces any employee who has a confirmed case of coronavirus will receive two weeks of paid leave.

Additionally, employees who end up under mandated quarantine by Walmart or the government will receive up to two weeks of pay and be excused of any associated absences. Employees who feel “uncomfortable” working can abstain—without penalty—through April. 

 

March 7, 2020

  • The best things in life are no longer free.

Food retailers famous for their free samples pull them from the floor (like Costco) or modify policies in favor of individual servings (like Trader Joe’s). 

 

March 1, 2020

  • Grocers, pharmacies, and others brace for a surge in demand. 

Local chains like Raley’s Supermarkets say they’re working with supplies to ensure availability for critical products like hand sanitizer and tissue. 

Home Depot takes face masks off its website and limits in-store purchases to 10 masks per customer. 

Price gougers on Amazon strive to benefit from the impending pandemic. 

 

February 28, 2020

The mega-retailer sends an internal memo debriefing their associates on the virus and encouraging them to stay home while sick. 

  • Hope emerges as stores reopen in China

With new cases in China slowing, Starbucks announces they’ve reopened “hundreds” of stores there. 

 

January 28, 2020

  • American retailers in China act.

Starbucks temporarily closes 2000 stores in mainland China at the direction of local government. That’s more than half of its footprint in the country, which constitutes the coffee-seller’s second largest market. 

Apple closes one Chinese location and announces reduced operating hours and frequent deep cleaning for the others

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