As Pandemic Lockdowns Return, Retailers Are Bracing for Impact — But This Time It Will Be Different

After more than 160,000 new coronavirus cases were reported across the country on Thursday alone — another new daily high — at least two states are forging ahead with official lockdowns and others are stepping up advisories and asking residents to stay put.

Oregon will implement a partial lockdown for two weeks, while New Mexico has issued stay-at-home orders for 14 days. The former will allow retailers to stay open at reduced capacity, while the latter is shutting non-essential businesses.

Chicago, meanwhile, became the biggest American city to take aggressive action, issuing a stay-at-home advisory and asking residents to cancel their Thanksgiving plans. And in New York this week, restaurants and bars were ordered to close at 10 pm and the city’s public school system — the largest in the US — could shut down in-person learning as early as Monday.

There’s no question that the new restrictions will have an impact on retail as the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear  — but the outlook isn’t as dire as March and April when operators faced an unprecedented situation. Since then, more than 100,000 small businesses have shuttered, while large retail bankruptcies and closings have also added up.

For those stores left standing, an intense focus on safety has been key, and that should serve them well in the weeks and months to come

“Since the onset of the pandemic, retailers have been implementing safety protocols and spending billions of dollars to ensure the health and safety of their associates and their customers,” said Jason Straczewski, VP of government relations and political affairs for the National Retail Federation.

That’s why the NRF is calling on states to allow retailers — both essential and non-essential — to remain open.

“These safety protocols and procedures go above and beyond any municipal, state or federal guidance. Retailers have proven they can operate safely, and there is no reason for any government to shut down any retail business, provided they are fully in compliance with public health and safety standards,”  Straczewski said.

Retailers in all corners of the industry launched holiday sales early, following Amazon’s lead. Prime Day in October kicked off a barrage of major promotions and discounts from Walmart, Target and many other retailers.

“They are embracing the new holiday tradition of shopping early and shopping safely,” Straczewski

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