These retailers are closing stores to slow coronavirus outbreak

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A man checks his phone in an Apple retail store in Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Major retailers across the U.S. are shutting down their stores or reducing hours in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The decisions, while smart for customers, workers and the community at large, will no doubt weigh heavily on the already-stressed retail industry.

Public health officials have asked people to refrain from large gatherings to help stem the spread of the virus. They say the virus can be spread from person-to-person when they are in close contact with one another, often through respiratory droplets emitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Researchers say the virus can live on surfaces for several days. For this reason, retailers that remain open have stepped up cleaning measures. 

To date, there are at least 2,952 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and at least 57 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

On Sunday, Abercrombie & Fitch announced store closures outside the Asia-Pacific region, but it warned the situation would have a “material adverse” impact on its financial performance. As a result, the company withdrew its earnings forecast. It likely won’t be the last retailer to offer up such a warning. 

Jefferies analyst Randal Konick said he expects to see more retailers close stores, and if they don’t, they likely will see little demand as malls become ghost towns. 

“With stores accounting for 75% of sales for most retailers, we anticipate massive EPS declines for 1Q, especially as most retailers appear to be paying employees during the 2 week closures,” Konick wrote in a research note. 

In Italy and France, where COVID-19 cases have been rising rapidly, all non-essential retail has been ordered to be shut down to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Retailers that sell essentials like food, medicine and cleanings supplies have seen a surge in demand. Some grocers have been forced to limit the number of cetain products to prevent hoarding, and employees are working hard to keep items on the shelves. 

CEOs of both Walmart and Target appeared alongside President Donald Trump on Friday as he provided an update on the U.S.’s response to the coronavirus. Target CEO Brian Cornell and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said they would offer space in the stores’ parking lots for virus testing.

Here are some of the announcements retailers have made so far. 

Abercrombie & Fitch

From Sunday, March 15 through March 28, Abercrombie & Fitch plans to close all its stores outside of the Asia-Pacific region. Online stores will continue to operate. In addition to its namesake brand, the retailer operates Hollister stores. It has about 880 stores worldwide. 

“The decision to close all our stores outside of the APAC region has been done with a focus on the wellbeing of our associates, our customers, our partners, and our communities, and it is in keeping with our commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen,” said CEO Fran Horowitz.

But the store closures are creating much uncertainty about the retailer’s business prompting the company to withdraw the financial outlook it issued earlier this month for both the fiscal first quarter and full year. 

Allbirds

Corporate staff is working remotely, but all stores are closed in the U.S. and Europe from March 15-27. The shoe retailer will continue to offer its employees full pay and benefits during this time. Online ordering is still available at this time.

“It’s hard to navigate the unknown, but as we continue to better understand how to slow the spread of COVID-19 we want to do all we can to keep our customers, employees and local communities safe,” co-founders Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger said in an email. 

American Dream 

The New Jersey megamall is closing March 16 and delaying the openings of new attractions, which had been scheduled for March 19. The closure will last through at least the end of March. 

Co-CEOs Don and Mark Ghermezian said they hope the shutdown will curb the spread of the virus. The outbreak is just the latest challenge for the megamall, which has faced many setbacks and changes in ownership since it broke ground in 2004.

Apple

The iPhone maker closed all of its stores outside of greater China until March 27.

“As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we’re taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a blog post Friday. Apple had closed all of its mainland China stores in early February, but by March 13, they had reopened with limited working hours. Cook said that all hourly workers will “will continue to receive pay in alignment with business as usual operations.”

Glossier

The cosmetics retailer is closing all stores and ceasing online operations, according to a blog post from founder and CEO Emily Weiss. Glossier has locations in Atlanta, New York and London and is delaying the opening of a new location in Arizona. The closure is planned for two weeks and employees will be compensated during this time.

“This is a tough call for many reasons,” Weiss said in the post. “In our New York City flagship alone, 2,000 people gather daily from around the world.”

Lululemon

The athleticwear retailer is reducing all of its store hours in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Beginning Monday, Lululemon  locations in North America will only be open from noon to 6 pm and all events and workout classes are canceled, according to an email sent to customers.

The move is intended “to help our people and communities through this difficult time,” Celeste Burgoyne, the company’s executive vice president of the Americas and global guest innovation, said in the email.

Nike

Nike said it will close its stores in the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand beginning Monday through March 27. Workers will still be paid in full during this time off. Nike had 384 retail stores in the U.S., including Converse and its outlet locations, at the end of 2019, according to SEC filings. Internationally, it had more than 750 locations.

Patagonia

The sporting goods retailer closed all of its stores and operations. In a memo posted on its website on Friday, Patagonia said, “the scale of impact is still unknown, and we want to do our part to protect our community especially while testing availability is unknown.” Workers will receive regular pay in the interim. While Patagonia did not provide a reopen date, it said it would give an update on March 27. The retailer has 37 in the U.S., according to its website.

Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters operates about 600 stores under the brands Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain and Nuuly. The retailer said its stores will close temporarily until at least March 28. Its online and subscription businesses will continue to operate. All employees also will be paid during the closure, the company said. 

Its corporate staff is working remotely, but other workers who are unable to do their jobs from home are working in staggered shifts in order to create “social distance.”

Walmart

The nation’s largest retailer is closing its stores overnight to allow for cleaning and restocking. Stores that were open 24-hours will now operate from 6 am to 11pm. The retailer has more than 4,700 Walmart and Neighborhood Market locations in the U.S. The shortened hours affect about 2,200 stores across the country that are open 24 hours a day.

Warby Parker

The eyeglass retailer is keeping its online operations running but all stores will close March 15 through March 27. Retail team members will continue to be paid as if they were working in stores during this time, the company said.

—CNBC’s Lauren Thomas and Melissa Repko contributed to this report. 

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