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Belk and The Children’s Place Stores Flip the Lights On

Belk and The Children’s Place are the latest apparel retailers to test the brick-and-mortar waters after months of closures.

On Monday, The Children’s Place said total net sales decreased 38 percent to $254 million for the first quarter ended May 2. With sales trends moving in the wrong direction, the childrenswear retailer launched a ship-to-store program in 85 percent of its U.S. stores, doubling its daily shipping capacity. The Children’s Place said digital demand has skyrocketed by more than 400 percent, as of May 16.

With states beginning to roll back coronavirus restrictions, The Children’s Place plans to reopen stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah starting May 19.

The retailer said it will continue to follow regional guidelines when deciding which stores will reopen, adding that more than 40 percent of its stores are in areas still under lockdown.

Newly opened stores will operate under reduced hours and the retailer will closely monitor occupancy and in-store traffic to promote social distancing. Restrooms, fitting rooms and drinking fountains will be temporarily closed and a new return policy prevents returned items from appearing on the sales floor for a 24-hour period.

Meanwhile, department store operator Belk plans to augment the number of reopened stores, it said Monday, noting that some locations, including those in Virginia and Louisiana, are open as of May 18. Kentucky stores will reopen on May 20. These compound the stores previously reopened in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. And when West Virginia and Maryland stores reopen on May 22, Belk “will be back open for shoppers in [its] entire 16-state footprint,” it said.

“We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from customers and associates as we reopen our stores,” Belk CEO Lisa Harper said. “We are doing everything we can to make the stores as safe as possible. That is our number one priority.”

At the outset, Belk will limit store hours, keep fitting rooms closed and install plexiglass shields, while employees will be required to wear protective garments like face masks, following the lead of other retailers. To serve customers who might remain skittish about the in-store shopping experience, Belk will be offering contactless curbside pickup services at most store locations, with same-day pickup available seven days a week.