As normal everyday life grinds to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic, some of the nation’s biggest retailers have temporarily closed thousands of stores to help stem the spread of the virus. Simon Property Group, the largest owner of shopping malls in the nation, closed all of its properties on Wednesday. Westfield and Taubman malls followed with U.S. closures on Thursday.
Not everyone is deserting their posts. Grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies are keeping their doors open to help people stay stocked with essentials, though many are shortening store hours to clean and restock. Walmart, the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer, shortened hours beginning Thursday, for the second time in less than a week.
Those stores are joined by office supply and home improvement chains which say they, too, provide essentials. Among the justifications: they provide products people – including first responders – need in a natural disaster. Others say they sell supplies that people need to work and school their children from home.
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And then there are retailers like GameStop and Barnes & Noble, who, as of Thursday afternoon, were staying open with reduced hours and announced steps to implement social distancing. But public experts say these stores don’t fulfill a critical need in the same way as pharmacies and home improvement stores.
“We have a very short window to prevent this crisis from turning into a catastrophe,” said Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health expert at George Washington University. “So, it is the responsibility of every person to do their part to not do anything that’s not essential.” She said all non-essential stores should close to help stop the spread of the virus.
Dr. John Swartzberg, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, said stores providing essentials must remain open, but others should close.
“The more people interact with other people, the more the opportunity to spread,” he said. “Stores are a perfect place for viruses to transmit, especially when they are crowded.”
Providing essentials during COVID-19 crisis
Walgreens stores nationwide have adjusted hours. Most locations, including 24-hour stores, will be open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. The drive-thru at 24-hour pharmacy locations will remain open for pick up of prescriptions and other select products. Competitor CVS wasn’t making a similar move as of Thursday afternoon.
“We currently have no plans to close stores or alter hours of operation unless directed to do so,” T.J. Crawford, CVS Health vice president, external affairs, said in a statement to USA TODAY.
Lowe’s hadn’t changed hours at its nearly 2,000 stores as of Thursday either, spokeswoman Jackie Pardini Hartzell said, noting “stores continue to stay open as we are providing essential supplies for customers, government officials and first responders.”
Rival Home Depot is temporarily shortening hours and closing nightly at 6 p.m., spokeswoman Margaret Smith told USA TODAY, adding the retailer is “committed to keeping stores open just as we always do during times of crisis and natural disaster.”
Staples and Best Buy also are staying open with shorter hours.
Staples said in a statement to USA TODAY that it plans to remain open “to support local communities in their new realities of working and learning from home.”
Best Buy has reduced hours and, on March 23, will begin permitting a small number of customers into the store at a time and is working to enhance its curbside service, CEO Corie Barry said in a letter to customers.
“You are turning to us for help getting the technology that allows you to continue running a small business or shift your usual job from an office setting to your home,” Barry said. “You are turning to us to help your children continue their education outside of their classroom.”
GameStop reportedly said in a memo sent to staff Thursday, obtained by gaming website Kotaku, that it believed it should be “classified as essential retail.”
“Due to the products we carry that enable and enhance our customers’ experience in working from home, we believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time,” the memo said.
Social distancing, curbside pickup
Curbside pickup is coming of age during the pandemic, both with restaurants and retailers.
While Dick’s Sporting Goods closed all of its stores Wednesday, it will continue to offer curbside pickup for online orders. So will Nordstrom, which closed its department stores Tuesday.
GameStop is offering curbside delivery, only allowing 10 customers in stores at a time and creating a 6-foot parameter between customers in checkout lines, Gary Riding, the company’s senior vice president of store operations, said in a statement to USA TODAY.
Riding said the gaming company has implemented the changes “so that we can be there for our customers as they are looking for sources of normalcy in their life during this stressful time.”
In an email to customers, Barnes & Noble asks customers to observe social distancing and understand “why we have removed the usual seating and similar furniture.” Planned events through the end of April have also been canceled.
Tough decision: Stay open or close?
Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at Forrester, said closing stores is a tough decision and not everyone has “the ample margins of Apple to absorb store closures.”
“For a store to turn out the lights on an entire chain overnight is drastic, disruptive and unprecedented – for customers, employees, suppliers and communities,” Kodali said.
For nonessential businesses staying open, Kodali thinks there’s a good chance they will be mandated to close in more states in the future.
“The downside, of course, is that they are accused of working against the social distancing norms now in place, and they would be considered bad corporate citizens,” she said.
Neil Saunders, managing director of retail consultancy Global Data, put it bluntly.
“They probably want to remain open to make money,” Saunders told USA TODAY, a move he said could be a mistake. “There is increasing pressure from staff and from the public for these kinds of retailers to justify why they are open.” nu//
Deborah Newman, a bankruptcy lawyer with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, said the stores “staying open are concluding that the risks of closing now outweigh those of staying open.” Yet Newman, who is based in New York, said this “will likely change as more and more stores decide to close, and more and more Americans choose to stay home.”
Grocery stores with reduced hours
Hours can vary by location and the following are the latest hours at the time of posting. Check websites for your closest location to confirm. Some may also have automated phone messages if you call.
Aldi: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, but the company notes some stores may have limited hours to accommodate restocking and cleaning.
Albertsons: Stores are opening one hour later and closing one hour earlier to give staff time to restock shelves with food and other essential items, the company confirmed to The Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Bashas’ Supermarkets: Hours are temporarily 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., but some may vary.
BI-LO: Stores will close nightly at 8 p.m. Also from 8 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, stores have set aside an hour for seniors and high-risk customers. The company said in a statement it “asks all customers to respect this time given to the elderly and other high-risk community members to allow them the comfort of purchasing necessary products in a safe environment.”
City Market: Temporary hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the Kroger brand with locations in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming.
Dollar General: All stores dedicated first hour to senior shoppers; closing hour early than normal hours.
Fareway Meat & Grocery: Stores are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the general public but until further notice, will open to shoppers 65 and older, expecting mothers and those with “increased susceptibility to serious illness” from 8 to 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday.
Food Town: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but the Texas-based retailer will open stores an hour early to allow those 65 and older to shop. Access to the store during the hour will require a government-issued state ID or Texas drivers license.
Fred Meyer: According to the Kroger website, stores are open regular hours.
Fry’s Food Stores: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Fresh Market: The grocer, which has 159 stores in 22 states, is reserving the first hour stores open, from 8 to 9 a.m. for “seniors and those most at risk” Monday through Friday.
Fresco y Más: Stores will close nightly at 8 p.m. Also from 8 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, stores have set aside an hour for seniors and high-risk customers.
Gelson’s: Hours vary but most stores close at 8 p.m. Find hours at www.gelsons.com/updatedhours.
Giant Eagle: The grocer said in a news release that starting Sunday, its flagship and Market District supermarkets will be open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. All GetGo stores adjacent to supermarkets will mirror the supermarket hours.
Harris Teeter: Stores close at 9 p.m. each night until further notice, the grocery chain posted on its website. Starting Thursday, stores will close at 8 p.m.
Harveys Supermarket: Stores will close nightly at 8 p.m. Also from 8 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, stores have set aside an hour for seniors and high-risk customers.
H-E-B: All stores will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until further notice.
Hy-Vee: New store hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, the Des Moines Register, part of the USA TODAY Network reported.
Kroger: Hours vary by location for namesake stores and subsisidaries and are posted on their website.
King Soopers:7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Lidl: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Northgate González Market: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but the Southern California Latino market has started a special hour of shopping for the disabled and seniors 65 and older from 7 to 8 a.m. at its 41 locations.
Pay-Less Markets: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Publix: All stores will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and pharmacy hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and regular hours Sunday. Starting March 24 and until further notice, Publix is designating Tuesday and Wednesday mornings from 7 to 8 a.m. for seniors 65 and over, the company said Thursday. Pharmacies also will open at 7 a.m. “Tuesdays and Wednesdays to serve our senior population,” the Florida-based retailer said.
QFC: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Ralphs: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Smith’s Food & Drug: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Safeway: Stores are opening one hour later and closing one hour earlier to give staff time to restock shelves with food and other essential items, the company confirmed to The Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Stater Bros. Markets: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Stop & Shop: Temporary hours are 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., but starting Thursday the chain will open from 6 to 7:30 a.m. for customers over the age of 60, according to the Asbury Park Press, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Target: Stores will close no later than 9 p.m. local time starting March 18.
Tops: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.Closing hours will remain the same at stores that already close at an earlier time.
Trader Joe’s: All stores will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. until further notice, the company posted on its website.
Vallarta Supermarkets: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for general public. All 50 locations will be open from 7 to 8 a.m. for shoppers 65-plus, pregnant women and those with disabilities.
Walmart: Starting March 18, stores will be openfrom 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. local time though stores that open later than 7 a.m. will continue their regular starting hours, Walmart said.
Wegmans: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
WinCo Foods: Some locations will be closed “during the early-morning hours” but store hours “are being left up to individual locations depending on need,” the grocer posted on its website.
Winn-Dixie: Stores will close nightly at 8 p.m. Also from 8 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, stores have set aside an hour for seniors and high-risk customers. The company said in a statement it “asks all customers to respect this time given to the elderly and other high-risk community members to allow them the comfort of purchasing necessary products in a safe environment.”
Whole Foods Market: Stores will close up to two hours early, the company said in an update, which notes “stores will remain open for pickup (in stores that offer it), and we will continue to fulfill Prime delivery orders in an effort to meet unprecedented demand and ensure that people who need to remain at home can still get their groceries in a timely manner.” Also stores will let customers who are 60 and older shop one hour before opening to the public.
Other stores with reduced hours
Barnes & Noble: In an email Wednesday, the bookseller said it “reducing operating hours in all stores, and are prepared to react quickly to decisions from local and national officials that impact our stores and cafés.”
Best Buy: Store hours were reduced March 18 to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time, but the company says it “will revisit on an ongoing basis the decision to remain open with shorter hours.” Then on March 23, the company plans to use curbside pickup and limit access to stores, including only allowing 10 to 15 customers in at a time.
GameStop: Beginning March 21, hours will be reduced to noon to 8 p.m. through March 29, the gaming retailer told USA TODAY Wednesday.
Home Depot: Stores are now closing daily at 6 p.m. Opening hours have not changed.
Staples: Starting Thursday, weekday hours will be reduced from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Walgreens: Starting Thursday, most Walgreens locations, including 24-hour stores, will now be open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. until further notice, the company said in a news release. For stores with shorter operating hours than 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., visit the store locator for specific store and pharmacy hours. For locations with a 24-hour drive-thru pharmacy, the pharmacy drive-thru will remain open 24 hours. Pickup of other select products will also be available at drive-thru, the company said.
Coronavirus store closings: These retailers are temporarily closed
The following dates could change.
Abercrombie & Fitch: Stores are closed until March 28.
Adidas: All Adidas-owned and Reebok-owned stores are closed through March 29.
Aerie and American Eagle: Stores closed through March 27.
Ann Taylor: Stores including Loft and outlet stores closed through March 28.
Apple: Stores are now closed until further notice, a change from an earlier announcement that stores would be closed through March 27.
Athleta: Stores close March 19 and will be closed for the next two weeks, the company announced.
Banana Republic: Stores close March 19 and will be closed for the next two weeks, the company announced.
Bath & Body Works: Stores are closed through March 29, according to a news release.
Belk: Closed through March 30.
Build-A-Bear: Closed through April 2.
Calvin Klein: Stores closed until March 29.
Chico’s: Stores announced the immediate closure of stores for the next two weeks starting March 17.
Claire’s: Stores are closed through March 27.
Coach: All stores are closed through March 27, according to an email the company sent to its email list.
Columbia Sportswear:Stores are closed through March 27.
Crate & Barrel: All stores closed for two weeks starting 7 p.m. Tuesday but will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 18 for pickup of existing orders.
Dick’s Sporting Goods: Stores closed March 18 and the plan is to reopen April 2, the company posted at www.dickssportinggoods.com/s/covid-19updates. However, curbside pickup will be available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Disney: All U.S. stores closed starting March 17.
DSW: Starting Tuesday night, all stores will temporarily close, the company announced.
Five Below: Stores will close at 7 p.m. Thursday through “at least March 31,” the company said in an email late Wednesday.
Foot Locker: Stores are closed through March 31.
Fossil: Stores including outlet locations closed March 15 and the closings are “planned to last through March 28,” the company said.
Gap: Stores close March 19 and will be closed for the next two weeks, the company announced.
Half Price Books: Stores are closed through March 31 for “in-person browsing” but will offer curbside pickup at most stores, the company said.
Hallmark: All company-owned stores are closing Wednesday and “projected to remain closed through April 1.”
H&M: All stores are closed until April 2, the company announced Tuesday.
HomeGoods and Homesense: Parent company TJX is closing stores for the next two weeks starting March 19, according to a news release. The company also is closing websites.
IKEA: The furniture chain has temporarily closed all of its U.S. stores.
J.C. Penney: Stores closed starting March 18 and expected to reopen April 2.
J.Crew: Closed through March 28.
J.Jill: Stores are closed through March 27 and the company says they plan to reopen stores March 28.
Kate Spade: All stores closed through March 27.
Kohl’s: Stores will close 7 p.m. local time Thursday, March 19 and will remain closed through at least April 1.
Levi Strauss: All stores closed through March 27.
L’OCCITANE: Closed for two-week period.
lululemon: All North America and European stores are closed through March 27.
Lush: All 258 Lush retail stores in the U.S. and Canada are temporarily closed through March 29.
MAC Cosmetics: Free-standing stores are temporarily closed.
Macy’s: Stores will be closed through March 31, the company announced Monday.
Marshalls: Parent company TJX is closing stores for the next two weeks starting March 19, according to a news release. The company also is closing websites.
Microsoft: All stores are closed.
Neiman Marcus: Stores including Last call are closed through March 31.
Nike: The athletic apparel company announced U.S. stores are closed through March 27.
Nordstrom: A two-week closure started March 17 at all U.S. and Canada stores including Nordstrom Rack locations.
Old Navy: Stores close March 19 and will be closed for the next two weeks, the company announced.
Origins: Stores closed through March 29.
Patagonia: Stores closed March 13, and the company said it will reassess the situation on March 27 and provide an update.
Pottery Barn: Stores are closed and plan to reopen April 2.
Ralph Lauren: Stores are closed March 18 and through April 1.
Reebok: All Reebok-owned stores are closed through March 29.
REI: The company’s 162 locations are closed through March 27.
Saks Fifth Avenue: Stores, including Saks OFF 5TH locations, are expected to “remain closed for two weeks, unless otherwise instructed by government or public health officials, and we will reassess operations at that time,” Hudson’s Bay Company, the company’s parent company, said Tuesday.
Sierra: Parent company TJX is closing stores for the next two weeks starting March 19, according to a news release. The company also is closing websites.
Sephora: Stores closed March 17 and expected to remain closed through April 3.
Skechers: Stores closed through March 28.
Soma: The chain’s parent company, Chico’s, announced the immediate closure of stores for the next two weeks starting March 17.
Sprint: Approximately 71% of stores are closed.
Stuart Weitzman: All stores closed through March 27.
Tailored Brands: The company’s brands, include Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank, Moores Clothing for Men and K&G, are closed through March 28, the company announced. E-commerce fulfillment centers will close March 20 through at least March 28.
T.J. Maxx: Parent company TJX is closing stores for the next two weeks starting March 19, according to a news release. The company also is closing websites.
T-Mobile: The company says 80% of stores are closed through at least March 31 and the remaining stores are operating on reduced hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time.
Tommy Hilfiger: All stores are closed until March 29.
Tory Burch: Stores closed through March 29.
Ulta Beauty: All stores will close starting at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 19 until at least March 31, the company announced Tuesday. A list of stores, which are already temporarily closed, is available at www.ulta.com/storeupdates.
Under Armour: Stores are closed through March 28.
UNIQLO: Closed until further notice.
Urban Outfitters: The company’s stores – including Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain and Urban Outfitters namesake stores – are closed until at least March 28 because of the coronavirus, the company announced.
VF Corporation: Closed through April 5.
Victoria’s Secret: Stores are closed through March 29, according to a news release
Warby Parker: Stores closed through March 27.
West Elm: Stores are closed and plan to reopen April 2.
White House Black Market: The chain’s parent company, Chico’s, announced the immediate closure of stores for the next two weeks starting March 17.
Williams-Sonoma: Stores plan to reopen April 2.
WW/Weight Watchers: The wellness company has closed retail locations or studios through April 4 and is launching virtual workshops. Learn more at www.weightwatchers.com.
Contributing: Coral Murphy, USA TODAY.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko