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Retailers Like Nordstrom Shut Their Doors to Thwart ‘Unprecedented Global Pandemic’

As a means of keeping consumers and employees safe from the COVID-19 outbreak that has just begun its steady spread across North America, retailers are increasingly shutting their doors while bracing for impact.

On Sunday and Monday, a slew of apparel retailers announced reduced store hours and outright closures that will remain in effect for weeks, if not indefinitely.

Seattle-based Nordstrom is shutting all U.S. and Canadian stores effective March 17, the company announced late Monday. The two-week closures affect Nordstrom’s full-line department stores in addition to its off-price Nordstrom Rack nameplate, clubhouses for the Trunk Club personal styling service and the upscale Jeffrey boutique.

“During this unprecedented period of uncertainty, we have in place the appropriate business continuity plans, operational framework and team,” CEO Erik Nordstrom said. “This, in concert with ending 2019 with a solid financial position and healthy balance sheet, gives us the ability to weather this challenging moment in time.”

Nordstrom’s four digital sites will continue to operate uninterrupted, and customers can elect click-and-collect and curbside services at its full-line stores. The company said the financial guidance it provided on March 3 is no longer applicable given the uncertainties surrounding the outbreak.

Vancouver-based Aritzia, known for its contemporary women’s wear, announced that it would be closing down all of its retail locations as of Monday. Those stores will remain closed until further notice.

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The company’s founder and CEO, Brian Hill, said it would be dipping into its Aritzia Community Relief Fund to pay for employees’ lost wages during the shutdown.

“Our goal is to do our part for the global well-being. As we navigate this complex and challenging landscape, we feel this is the best decision for our people, our clients, our partners and our community as a whole,” he said in a statement.

In an email to customers Monday night, Uniqlo said it’s closing all 50 U.S. retail stores starting March 17. “This is temporary and we are implementing a plan to support our team during this time,” the Fast Retailing-owned merchant wrote.

Columbia Sportswear also closed its North American brick-and-mortar stores on Monday, saying those locations would reopen on March 27. President and CEO Tim Boyle said in a statement released over the weekend that the Portland, Ore.-based company would be offering “catastrophic paid leave to our employees most affected by this virus.”

Columbia has and will continue to shut down stores across specific global locations in response to the spread of the disease, and that its plans might changes with the “rapidly evolving” situation, Boyle said.

Best known for its smiling pink whale logo and preppy nautical style, Connecticut-based Vineyard Vines said it was shuttering its doors for the same period of time, as an effort to protect communities against the global spread of COVID-19.

“The safety and wellness of our team, customers and community is our No. 1 priority,” co-founders Shep and Ian Murphy said in a statement. “Given the current state of COVID-19 we have decided to close all stores and encourage you all to take the precautionary measures recommended by the CDC and WHO.”

Vineyard Vines also said it would take the added action of continuing to pay store teams for any previously scheduled shifts during the 11-day shutdown period.

Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger owner PVH Corporation will close its company-operated retail stores across North America and Europe beginning Tuesday.

The shutdown will continue through March 29, the firm said in a release Monday, and all retail associates at affected store locations will continue to receive full pay and benefits for their scheduled shifts throughout the closures.

Notably, PVH Corp. said that many of its company-operated stores in Asia have reopened for business, though some are still operating on reduced hours. Foot traffic has improved in many of these areas over the past month, but it remains significantly lower than last year, the company said.

The company’s offices in Greater China have reopened after a period of closure, PVH Corp. said, while its corporate bodies in South Korea and Japan remain open with most employees working from home.

In San Francisco, where Mayor London Breed announced a shelter-in-place directive to all residents on Monday, Levi’s has announced it would close all company owned and operated stores until March 27.

“We are facing an unprecedented global pandemic, and our first priority is to do the right thing for the health and safety of our employees and our consumers,” said Chip Bergh, president and chief executive officer of Levi Strauss & Co.

Bergh added that stores across Canada and the U.S. would be closed, and that employees would be paid for all scheduled hours during the period of closure.

“We have faced many challenges in our 167-year history,” Bergh added, “And we will continue to navigate difficult times as we always have—by putting our people first and managing this business for the long term.”

“The decision to close our retail stores, as well as our corporate and brand offices in North America, is the responsible thing to do to help mitigate the spread of the virus through social distancing,” echoed VF Corporation chairman, president and CEO Steve Rendle.

The firm, which owns The North Face, Timberland and Vans, among other brands, said it would close all North American stores until April 5, and allow all employees to work remotely. Store associates will receive full pay and benefits until that time.

These actions are reflective of the operations strategy that has already been deployed across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Rendle said. In Europe, VF Corp. has closed all offices and retail stores until further notice, while its locations in the U.K. are running on reduced hours.

While the firm’s Asia businesses were first impacted by the spread of the virus, offices in Greater China have now reopened and nearly 90 percent of VF Corp. owned and operated stores are operational as well.

Like PVH Corp., VF Corp. said an increase in traffic to Asian stores over the past month is a heartening sign, but overall sales are still down significantly from last year.

The company’s offices and retail locations in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan remain open, and it said its brands have experienced limited disruption to supply chains to date.

“Ongoing diversification efforts, such as re-directing manufacturing and materials sourcing, are underway in an attempt to mitigate potential future disruption,” the company said in a statement on Monday.

“While it is not possible to gauge the full impact to VF’s supply chain at this time, VF continues to believe its global supply chain represents a key competitive advantage during periods of uncertainty and market volatility.”

In a departure from the trend toward store closures, San Francisco-based Gap Inc. will not close its retail doors to shoppers.

On Sunday, the company announced that it would be implementing reduced store hours across its Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta, Gap, Gap Outlet and Janie and Jack stores beginning Monday.

Gap Inc. will, however, close select stores based upon guidance from local government officials and health authorities. Location-based factors, like a dependence on public transportation for access, could also determine if a store warrants closure, the firm said. That could change in light of the shelter-in-place directive that legally prohibits venturing out to shop for non-essential supplies beyond food and medicine.

Gap Inc. said it had implemented “enhanced continued pay policies” to help support full and part-time employees in light of the closures and reduction of working hours.

Saks Fifth Ave. reportedly is temporarily closing its Manhattan flagship and Philadelphia stores, according to WWD. Spokespersons for owner Hudson’s Bay Company did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation.


Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.