As Texas Rolls Back Mask Mandate and Occupancy Limits, Here’s What Retailers Are Doing to Stay Safe

Nationwide chains, local boutiques, shopping centers and more retailers are contending with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order to repeal the face mask mandate in the state as well as allow businesses to reopen at full capacity.

Despite warnings from federal health authorities, Abbott announced on Tuesday that he would roll back the regulations that were put in place nearly eight months ago. The new law will take effect March 10. It marks the first major initiative by any state in the United States to revoke restrictions as the COVID-19 pandemic approaches its one-year mark.

“Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end,” Abbott said at the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce. “It is now time to open Texas 100%.”

Abbott’s executive order leaves it up to business owners to decide whether to require customers to wear masks inside their spaces. According to the text, nothing “precludes businesses or other establishments from requiring employees or customers to follow additional hygiene measures, including the wearing of a face covering.”

But not all retailers are ready to do away with federal guidelines: In a statement, Target confirmed that it would still require store workers and customers to wear masks in all of its locations across the country, including the state of Texas. (Exemptions are made for guests with underlying medical conditions and young children.) It added that people who have been vaccinated will still be obligated to wear a mask and follow social distancing rules in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance.

“To help our guests, we provide disposable masks at our store entrances to guests who do not have one; remind guests to wear masks with signs, team members at store entrances and overhead audio reminders; [and] guide guests to shop our various no-contact fulfillment options if they don’t want to wear masks,” a spokesperson told FN.

In addition, Macy’s indicated that it would continue with its current policy, which requires that customers wear a facial covering while shopping at its stores. Associates at its department stores are also instructed to wear masks and to complete a daily wellness check ahead of their scheduled shifts.

“The health and safety of our colleagues and customers is always our top priority,” a spokesperson said. “If the customer does not have a mask, we will be happy to provide one.”

Nordstrom also noted that its top priority remains the safety of its employees and customers. It shared that it was providing face masks free of charge to any shopper who might need one.

“As a company, we’ve made the decision to ask all customers to wear a face mask, even if not required by local or state mandates,” a spokesperson added.

Similarly, Dallas-based Neiman Marcus announced that it would continue its corporate-wide policy of requiring customers and workers to wear masks while inside its facilities, including those in Texas.

“Neiman Marcus Group will continue to monitor this situation and will reassess our position as appropriate,” said a spokesperson.

At DSW, parent Designer Brands Inc. told FN that it would continue to follow the CDC’s guidance as well as that of the World Health Organization, which advised that the public take precautions like social distancing, wearing face masks, avoiding crowds and washing hands frequently.

“Consistent with our top priority of protecting our teams, customers and the communities we serve, we will continue to require our associates to wear masks and follow proper safety protocols,” the company said.

Meanwhile, upscale mall NorthPark Center — whose stores include luxury brands Gucci and Versace; fast-fashion giants H&M and Zara; shoe labels Dr. Martens and Stuart Weitzman; as well as athletic behemoths Adidas and Nike — announced that it was “currently reviewing” the executive order.

“[We] will have a policy in place soon,” said a spokesperson for the shopping center, which is located in Dallas.

As of Wednesday, more than 28.73 million people in the U.S. have contracted the virus and at least 517,800 deaths have been recorded. In a statement, the Retail Industry Leaders Association called out Texas’ rollback of the mask mandate, which was also lifted by Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves on Tuesday. The trade group suggested that requiring masks for a few more weeks is “still the prudent course of action” until COVID-19 vaccines are more widely administered. (President Joe Biden announced yesterday that the U.S. is on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May.)

“Relaxing common-sense, non-intrusive safety protocols like wearing masks is a mistake,” wrote EVP of communications and state affairs Jason Brewer. “We support governors reopening their economies and giving beleaguered restaurants and other small businesses the opportunity to rebuild and rehire workers. But going backwards on safety measures will unfairly put retail employees back in the role of enforcing guidelines still recommended by the CDC and other public health advocates.”

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