The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a sharp economic toll on the retail industry worldwide as many retailers and shopping centers were forced to shut down for months due to mandated stay-at-home orders. As a result of these closures, online retailers received a major boost in sales as customers looked for alternative ways to shop and the effects of the retail apocalypse were exacerbated.
Online retailer Amazon announced it would be adding 3,000 customer service jobs in South Africa to respond to increased demand in North America and Europe for Amazon products. Due to COVID-19, sales of tobacco and alcohol were prohibited under lockdown restrictions. Edcon put their retail brands Edgars, Jet, and Thank U up for auction and ceased to pay rents for its retail locations following lockdown restrictions as a result of limited sales due to lockdown restrictions.
The United States has had multiple closures attributed to the pandemic and the ensuing recession. As of August 3, 43 retailers based in the U.S. have filed for bankruptcy according to CNBC. U.S. based Apple Inc. announced it would temporarily close all stores globally outside of China on March 14. On the same day, Urban Outfitters, Verizon, and T-Mobile all announced their intentions to temporarily close stores as well.The nation’s largest retailer, Walmart significantly reduced its hours across the nation. Known for its 24-hour store operations, the company initially announced the stores would be open from 6am to 11pm on March 14.
The retail and entertainment complex American Dream faced a series of setbacks due to the pandemic. Initially scheduled for March 19, the grand opening of the complex was indefinitely delayed. Retailer GNC pulled out of the project following the pandemic, with other retailers like The Children’s Place, Forever 21, and Victoria’s Secret possibly withdrawing their plans as well. In June, contractors for the mall claimed they were owed $13 million for unpaid work. Game Stop received criticism for saying it was “an essential business” in states where only essential retailers were to stay open. On March 22, Gamestop closed its stores after outcry from employees.
Bloomberg News reported on July 7 that Ascena Retail Group, parent company of Ann Taylor Loft, Justice, and Lane Bryant, would file for bankruptcy. On July 23, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced it plans to close stores, with a “significant” number of closures for the Justice stores.The nation’s oldest men’s retailer Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy on July 8 after years of faltering sales from a shift to more casual workplace attire that was exacerbated by the pandemic. On July 23, Simon Property Group and Authentic Brands made a bid of $3.5 million to try and keep 125 stores open.
The nation’s oldest department store chain, Lord & Taylor, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on August 2, 2020. Later that same evening, Tailored Brands, parent of Men’s Wearhouse and JoS. A. Bank also filed for bankruptcy. Many back to school sales were delayed or experienced lesser sales than previous years as uncertainty after changes in the school year led to increased unease over buying unneeded supplies.Stein Mart filed for bankruptcy on August 12, and expects to close all of their stores.
In the weeks leading up to lockdowns, panic buying of products such as hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and canned foods led to shortages of these items nationwide.With many people seeing disinfectant as providing protection against the spread of the disease, sales in cleaning products such as Dettol began to surge .By the end of February London’s FTSE 100 share index has seen one of its worst weeks since the depths of the financial crisis in 2008, as over £200bn is wipped off UK firms’ value.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance for businesses and employers on COVID-19 prevention and management measures in the workplace. Engineering controls such as altered workspaces to allow physical distancing, plexiglass barriers, and improved ventilation are recommended. Administration controls such as training, symptom screening, routine cleaning, avoiding shared equipment and office space, staggered shifts, and flexible sick leave policies are strategies to keep employees safe and healthy.