America is closed: coronavirus puts department stores and small businesses in peril

America is closed: coronavirus puts department stores at risk

Retailers across the globe are shutting down stores to limit the spread of Covid-19. On 11 March the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and two days later US President Donald Trump declared national emergency.

The past week a lot of contradictory events played out. As the seriousness of the spread was confirmed, this past weekend saw constant long lines in front stores like Walmart, Costco and Target. Stores see big surges in shopping, as people stock up on household essentials and food.

Many other retailers have been forces by the situation to close for unknown period. Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike, R.E.I. and Under Armour announced they were closing their stores across the States, while Gap Inc., Kohl’s and Nordstrom are cutting on their working hours.

Research firm Customer Growth Partners predicted last month that retail sales would increase by 4.1% this year. Now they have revised to a modest 1% if the crisis spreads into the beginning of the summer.

Disney theme parks have also closed globally. The company announced it was also temporarily closing all retail store locations in the U.S. and Canada from today.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple will close retail stores outside of Greater China until 27 March. Stores in China are now re-opening as the country has contained the outbreak and life is slowly returning to its normal state. Cook stated that the situation in China has helped Apple form its response in the rest of the world.

Tim Cook said:

Tim Cook

One of those lessons is that the most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance.

Many small businesses are struggling with the decision to close expecting it may cause them their business. In some places the clients are making that decision for the business owners by staying at home and not going to restaurants, hairdressing salons and others. Many of those small business are particularly vulnerable as they don’t have the cash to survive the crisis.

The US Chamber of Commerce called for actions from lawmakers on Monday.

Tom Donohue, the Chamber’s CEO said:

Tom Donohue

We need big, bold policy moves now to ensure businesses continue to function, meet payroll, and keep American workers employed. We must not let this public health emergency leave a lasting, permanent impact on our economy, small businesses, and American workers.

The US Chamber is proposing to waive some rules and regulations to make it easier for small business owners to apply for emergency loans. The Chamber is also asking the government to cancel payroll tax payments from March through April so businesses can keep the money.

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