The announcements of store closures, which began trickling in over the weekend, have turned into a flood in the past 24 hours with big hitters from the Mall of America to Macy’s and Nordstrom saying they are shutting down for at least two weeks.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, people are being urged to stay home, and as a result many retailers are closing or paring back hours. Starting Wednesday, Minneapolis-based Target said it will close stores at 9 p.m., and Hy-Vee said it would close at 8 p.m. to give store workers time for additional cleaning and restocking. Walmart, whose stores are usually open all night, made a similar move over the weekend to close its stores at 11 p.m.
Richfield-based Best Buy said Tuesday it will reduce store hours to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. And starting Monday, it will only allow 10 to 15 customers in stores at a time for at least two weeks, while also serving customers through curbside pickup. It also will have fewer employees staffing the store.
As they have looked to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, state and local officials around the U.S. have initially focused on shutting down in-person dining at restaurants and bars, where patrons are often seated closely together for extended periods of time. Retail stores and shopping malls so far have been mostly exempt from orders to close since they are considered to be less crowded, with more free-flowing spaces.
But as the virus continues to rapidly spread, retailers are weighing public health risks to their employees and customers if they stay open while also asking themselves questions such as how essential the goods and services they provide may be.
Some retailers who were already struggling might not be able to survive the temporary closures, analysts said.
“This is a disaster for retail,” said Neil Saunders, an analyst with GlobalData Retail. “Some retailers will be able to weather it, but they won’t have very good numbers. For others, their survival is very much on the line.”
While many shopping malls around the U.S. have remained open even if they reduced hours, the Mall of America closed at 5 p.m. Tuesday for at least two weeks.
“Mall of America brings people together, and it will continue to do so once we are past this current situation,” mall operators said in a statement. “But that ability to attract people is precisely why we made the decision to temporarily close our doors.”
The mall is one of the largest tourist attractions in the region, drawing more than 40 million visitors a year. More than 10,000 people work at the mall. Hudson Yards, a prominent new shopping mall in New York City, also said Tuesday that it will close down.
Apple was one of the first major retailers to close its stores late last week, while keeping its online operations going as many other retailers are also now doing. Other specialty retailers such as Patagonia, Lululemon, REI, Nike, Anthropologie and others followed suit over the weekend.
On Monday night, Nordstrom became the first department store chain to announce it was temporarily closing stores. Macy’s then said it would do the same at the end of business Tuesday and keep stores closed through March 31, while continuing to pay employees during the shutdown. Other mall stores such as H&M, Bath & Body Works and Sephora are also temporarily closing.
“Macy’s is a biggie — it’s an anchor in many malls,” said Saunders, adding that its closing will put pressure on other stores and shopping malls to close. “No one is going to want to go to a mall if only half of the stores are open.”
Grocery stores, Costco, Walmart and Target, which sell essential items such as food and household supplies, have been doing brisk business as people stock up so they can hunker down in their homes.
“But the second group — they’re very nervous,” Saunders said of retailers not selling essential items that have been reluctant to close. “The J.C. Penneys, the Kohls. They’re the ones that really don’t want to close because this can be really damaging to them financially and they don’t know what to do.”
However, Kohls and J.C. Penney have cut their store hours.
In his executive order mandating restaurants and bars to close by Tuesday afternoon, other than for takeout and delivery, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz encouraged supermarkets, pharmacies and other establishments providing “essential retail goods and services” to remain open while practicing social distancing.
Shopping malls were not explicitly included in the list of establishments ordered to close, though movie theaters and food courts, which are found in many malls, were.
During a news conference on Monday, Walz said that other establishments, such as shopping malls, could be added to that list as the situation evolves.
Twin Cities shopping malls from Ridgedale, Southdale and Rosedale to Northtown and Maplewood remain open for now. But many of them have pared back their hours to 11 a.m. or noon to 7 p.m. during the week.
“Our retail assets serve and support our communities as employment centers and points of purchase for necessary goods and services,” Brookfield Properties, which operates Ridgedale, said in a statement. “This revised operating schedule is intended to strike a balance between allowing our communities to receive the goods, services, employment and commerce they need, while also enabling our property and store teams to implement rigorous cleanings each evening.”
The Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis said Tuesday it will also temporarily close; its grocery stores will remain open and its restaurants will offer delivery and pickup.
Staff writer John Ewoldt contributed to this report.