Holidays are the most important stretch of the year for retailers, and stores will maximize sales in what has been a challenging year for the industry, so industry lobbyists and retailers are pushing proactively to eliminate the “essential” “non-important” nomenclature before any future pandemic-related shutdowns.
In a call with analysts Thursday, Macy’s CEO Jeffrey Gennette said the retailer was working with local and state leaders to ensure coronavirus security measures were in place, urging officials to remove the distinction between key and non-essential retailers.
“We do not believe that the designation of essential and non-essential should play a role in retail. We believe that you either have a safe environment or not,” he said. “You must be held accountable for health and safety standards.”
Gennette’s announcement reiterated the strategy that retail industry leaders have taken with elected officials in recent weeks. Retail groups say it is unfair to require some stores to close, while others allow them to remain open based on what they sell. And it’s a reflection of how forced closures have affected parts of the industry negatively, such as clothing stores and malls, while lifting others as grocery and home improvement.
Some public health experts are mixed about whether clothing stores and others should close when the pandemic worsens in the United States. The seven-day average of new cases nationwide is at its highest ever: 161,165 cases a day, an increase of 27% compared to last week.
Tara Smith, an epidemiologist at Kent State University College of Public Health, said in an email that it would make sense to close stores previously labeled as non-essential to stop the spread of the virus “in an ideal world.” But she said closures would be too detrimental to the economy and workers at this point unless there was more federal funding to compensate for laid-off workers.
The federal government had provided an additional $ 600 in weekly unemployment benefits to people who lost their jobs in the pandemic, but those benefits expired over the summer. Congress has not renewed them.
Wael Al-Delaimy, an epidemiologist at the University of California San Diego, said non-essential retailers should close because the pandemic is worse than it was in the spring.
David French, senior vice president of government relations at the National Retail Federation, said in an interview Thursday that retailers establishing security protocols such as Demands for masks, social distance and other measures must be allowed to remain open.
He added that it is “important for the health of the community that governors do not close the economy again.”
So far, most local and state leaders have not demanded that retailers, whom they once identified as non-essentials, close, retailers say. New constraints have instead focused on capacity limits in stores.
However, New Mexico has become a hotbed of new rules around which companies can remain open.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials announced Wednesday that the state required key retailers to limit capacity to a maximum of 75 customers within or 25% of the maximum occupancy until November 30th.
These major retailers include grocery stores, supermarkets, farmers markets, grocery stores and other businesses that generate more than a third of their revenue from food, car and bicycle workshops, hardware stores, laundries and others. Dealers who do not meet these requirements are not allowed to have customers inside.
—CNN’s Scottie Andrew contributed to this article.