They are the last remaining places for social interaction. But for how long?
Retail stores are virtually the only area for public social interaction still open for business, but as the coronavirus pandemic spreads, aside from stores like supermarkets and pharmacies that sell essential goods, that may not last very much longer.
A new tally of retailers that have closed all their stores totals more than 110 businesses, ranging from national chains like Macy’s, Nordstrom, Apple and Old Navy to local specialty stores like ABC Carpet & Home, Kith and Showfields.
Most of these retailers’ announcements say they expect to open at the end of March or in early April, but the rapidly deteriorating environment caused by the ever-widening coronavirus pandemic is likely to make those re-opening plans moot. Already, entities that have closed like Major League Baseball have pushed back projected returns well into mid- to late spring.
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In the meantime, stores selling essentials like food, drugs, household goods and, of course, toilet paper continue to sell out their inventories, often with long lines and record revenue days. Their stock prices reflect the increased business.
But stores selling general merchandise, apparel, home, footwear and other non-essentials are feeling the full brunt of the quarantining and sheltering-in-place that are becoming commonplace across the country. And their stock prices are tanking dramatically.
Further exacerbating the situation for retail stores is the also-increasing number of shopping centers and malls that are being closed. New Jersey has ordered all malls to be shut, including those in Paramus, considered shopping center ground zero. Other malls, including the Mall of America in Minneapolis and the King of Prussia Mall outside Philadelphia, are already closed.
As more stores shut their doors, it seems conceivable that all of non-essential retailing could be closed within a few days. It may not come from a government mandate, but with store traffic virtually non-existent, it will most likely become a de facto reality.