Walmart, Apple and More Stores Are Choosing To Close as COVID Rates Spike
The omicron variant hasn’t had nearly the same impact on retail business as the initial COVID-19 surge that led to nationwide shutdowns and thousands of store closings, but some chains — including Walmart and Apple — have chosen to shutter stores over the last month as COVID-19 rates increase.
Walmart was one of the first to make a move, closing nearly 60 stores for two days in December as a precautionary measure against rising infections caused by omicron, The New York Post reported. The shuttered stores were located in Texas, New Jersey and Maryland, and were closed to be sanitized.
Apple made a similar move early last week, closing about 20 of its retail stores after a wave of COVID-19 cases involving employees left the stores unsafe and understaffed, according to The New York Times. The closures came partly due to concerns over the risk of infection, and partly because some stores didn’t have enough workers.
“We regularly monitor conditions, and we will adjust our health measures to support the well-being of customers and employees,” Amy Bessette, an Apple spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Omicron Continues To Threaten Retail, Service Industries
Retailers in New York have been particularly hard hit as that city faces a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. Apple temporarily closed all of its Big Apple locations, the Glossy retail website reported. And the SJP Collection, a Manhattan shoe boutique owned by Sarah Jessica Parker, temporarily closed its doors on Dec. 28. The store later reopened with limited hours and capacity.
Meanwhile, at least three independent retailers in Charlotte, North Carolina, temporarily closed last week due to a spike in cases driven by omicron. Two of the closings were directly related to employee infections.
Even though the overall retail industry made strong sales gains during the holiday shopping season, there is concern about how omicron will impact the momentum.
“The omicron variant is undoubtedly dampening the progress that physical retail has made, which is illustrated by [our] data showing that retail job ads fell 26% in one week [in mid-December], during a time where retail job demand usually skyrockets,” Andrew Hunter, co-founder of job search platform Adzuna, told Glossy. “With omicron spreading rapidly, we’re seeing a significant impact on industries like airlines and travel, in particular, which will also move into retail, reversing progress there.”
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