UPDATE: Kohl’s has announced it will close all stores effective March 19 at 7 pm until at least April 1. CEO Michelle Gass said the company will still offer store associates two calendar weeks of pay.
Macy’s, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, IKEA, J.Crew, H&M, L Brands, Sephora and Ulta Beauty are among the many high-profile retailers that have shuttered their stores since the first wave of corona virus-based store closures took place up through March 16. But not all of retail’s biggest names have closed yet even as COVID-19 cases spread. While “essentials” retailers — mass merchants, discount stores, grocers and pharmacies —largely remain open (although with limited hours), Best Buy, The Home Depot and Kohl’s are so far refusing to close.
Best Buy is taking steps to enact social distancing, by turning all in-home consultations virtual and limiting the number of customers in each store to 10 to 15 at a time, starting March 23. When shoppers need assistance upon entering the store, an employee will escort them to find the specific item, while maintaining the recommended distance of six feet.
Starting March 18, Best Buy store hours will be 10 am to 6 pm instead of the usual 9 pm on weekdays. The company said it will have fewer employees working at any one time, but will pay employees who are not working two weeks’ wages.
Best Buy is one of the rare “non-essentials” retailers performing strongly during the outbreak, with customers purchasing appliances to freeze or store food and tech-related products to set up home offices and help children remotely attend school.
The Home Depot also has remained open while moving store closure times to 6 pm. Opening times, typically 6 am, are unchanged. The company said the reduced hours will provide time for staff to restock shelves and perform necessary cleaning to mitigate the spread of germs. The retailer has seen an increase in sales of masks, hand appliance and cleaning supplies, as well as urgent home appliance purchases such as electrical and plumbing repair, refrigerators and air and water filtration tools, according to a company spokesperson.
The home improvement retailer said it is giving full-time hourly employees an additional 80 hours of paid sick time or personal time, while part-time hourly employees will get an additional 40 hours. If an employee contracts COVID-19 or is advised by health officials to self-quarantine due to exposure to the virus, the employee will continue to be paid during time off.
Kohl’s is the most surprising retailer to keep its stores open, especially since chief competitors Macy’s, Nordstrom and most recently JCPenney have shuttered locations nationwide. These department stores are stocked with items that shoppers are unlikely to prioritize during a pandemic, including apparel, footwear, jewelry, cosmetics and eyewear. Demand is softening in the areas most affected by the virus, the company said in an SEC filing.
All Kohl’s stores will be open for customers from 11 am to 7 pm until further notice, with the retailer also indicating that this change was to ensure that stores are well-staffed and cleaned during peak times.