Macy’s will reopen dozens of stores Monday as states begin easing coronavirus lockdowns, according to news reports, and the retail chain said it expects to have its entire fleet operating in six weeks.
Chief executive Jeff Gennette told The Wall Street Journal that 68 stores will be in the first wave, making it the first major retailer to announce its comeback plan. The move comes as Simon Property Group, the nation’s biggest mall owner, prepares to reopen 49 shopping centers this weekend in states easing restrictions, including Georgia and South Carolina.
Best Buy also plans to reopen 200 stores in May for shoppers with appointments for in-store consultations, The Journal reported. Tapestry, which owns Kate Spade and Coach, plans to reopen 40 stores for curbside pickup Friday.
But the companies are taking new precautions – including stepped up sanitization efforts, the use of plexiglass barriers and encouraging shoppers to stay six feet apart – as they try to entice shoppers back into familiar environments.
Macy’s also will offer “no-touch consultations” on such products as makeup and jewelry. It will also be operating on reduced hours.
“We don’t know how consumers will respond,” Gennette told The Journal, adding that he expects the stores that come back first to do less than a 20% of their normal sales volume at first.
Much like Belk, J.C. Penney and other department store chains, Macy’s has struggled against declining foot traffic for years as consumers increasingly meet their shopping needs online. It shuttered 125 stores (20% of its total) and laid off 2,000 workers in February after a disappointing holiday season.
The coronavirus outbreak compounded its problems. In March, the retailer shuttered all 775 of its Macy’s, Blue Mercury and Bloomingdale’s locations and furloughed most of its 125,000 employees.
Now, as it brings its workforce back, employees will have to answer a wellness questionnaire and have their temperatures taken before starting shifts, Gennette said. All employees will be required to wear masks, and those who handle merchandise will be required to wear gloves. Stores will operate fewer fitting rooms at a time, and items that have been tried on will be held for 24 hours before being returned to the sales floor.
The retailer is returning to a far weaker economic climate. On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that 3.8 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, pushing U.S. job losses since the pandemic started past 30 million. On Wednesday, the Commerce Department reported that consumer spending fell 7.5% in March – its sharpest decline on record.
This week, the department reported that U.S. gross domestic product shrank 4.8% in the first quarter, the deepest contraction since the 2008 financial crisis. And the worst is yet to come, as the full impact of coronavirus-related closures did not manifest until later in the quarter.
Macy’s, which had $25 billion in sales in 2018, is one of the most prominent retailers nationwide, with anchor stores at hundreds of U.S. shopping malls. It has also become a cultural icon for generations of Americans, featured in movies such as “Miracle on 34th Street.” The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which dates back to 1924, is the world’s largest parade and attracts millions of revelers each year.