Walmart, Apple and More Stores Are Choosing To Close as COVID Rates Spike

Apple Store closed for pandemic in Summerlin Nevada USA stock photo
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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.

See: American Retail Spending Could Raise Inflation as COVID Outbreak Leads to Less Dining Out
Find: Walmart Slashes Paid Leave in Half After CDC Shifts Rules on COVID Isolation, Quarantine

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.

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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.

Learn: Ahead of Omicron Surge, Weak December Jobs Report Adds Only 199,000 New Jobs
Explore: Jobless Claims Tick Higher Amid Ongoing Omicron Shutdown Fears

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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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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