Department stores are shutting down for now as officials urge that people avoid crowds during the coronavirus outbreak.
All the U.S. locations of Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom have closed and the companies have said they will provide benefits and compensation to affected workers. Most expect to stay shut for the next two weeks. Saks has shut only its New York and Philadelphia stores.
The stores that have closed say they’ll undertake deep cleaning at their outlets and say their websites are open for business.
This week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the temporary closing of all schools, restaurants and bars in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. The city confirmed its first case of coronavirus on March 1. At least five cities or states have ordered stores closed, though New York has yet to take that step.
Some department stores have already been forced to close to the public in other parts of the country, such as in San Francisco, where authorities Monday mandated a three-week shutdown of all nonessential activities.
Department stores have invested billions in their New York flagships, the critical centerpieces of their store networks. Saks Fifth Avenue is finishing up a $250-million renewal of its store. Bloomingdale’s recently reworked several departments. Nordstrom joined the club last year, when it opened a full-line flagship in the city for the first time.
Macy’s flagship in Herald Square is the biggest of them all. Its expansive 2-million-square-foot store brings in locals and tourists from across the globe to shop. The building is so valuable to the company that it’s seeking to build a 1.5-million-square-foot skyscraper atop it for third-party commercial tenants.
Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, home to Saks and Bergdorf, is also growing quieter. Tiffany & Co. is shutting its flagship jewelry shop, while Apple’s iconic cube store and Uniqlo’s giant flagship are closed as well.
The Manhattan department stores follow other U.S. retailers in temporary virus-related shutdowns. On Tuesday, Ralph Lauren, Ulta, Victoria’s Secret, Fossil and Canada Goose said they would be closing their U.S. shops, joining Nike, Apple, Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew and Lululemon.
Even before the closures, consumer behavior had shifted sharply away from physical shops as the outbreak grew into a pandemic. Foot traffic to retailers decreased 31% in the week through March 13, the sixth straight week that store visits had fallen, according to location-data provider Prodco Analytics.