Italy Orders Closure of All Shops Except Groceries, Pharmacies
America’s response to the coronavirus is accelerating, and now major retailers and restaurants are taking action to decrease human interaction in their locations.
Starbucks Corp., which had already been dealing with the virus fallout in China, said it may reduce seating in its coffee shops and may limit transactions in some stores to mobile-only pickup orders, delivery or drive thru.
Home Depot Inc. said it temporarily suspended in-store workshops that often draw more than 100 people. Lowe’s Cos. did the same, a spokeswoman said.
At Ulta Beauty Inc. stores, customers should ask associates to help them with makeup samples, rather than digging in on their own, or turn to the company’s “virtual try-on experience.”
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. will offer free delivery from March 15 through March 31 on orders over US$10. The deliveries will come with a new tamper evident packaging seal and customers can leave instructions for drivers to limit direct contact, it said.
What seemed unthinkable a few days ago in America’s push to combat the spread of the virus is now becoming reality. On Thursday, the National Hockey League followed the National Basketball Association’s lead and suspended its season.
The White House announced a 30-day restriction on travel from Europe to the U.S., while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he’s banning gatherings of more than 500 people. The measures are aimed at slowing the virus by crimping social interactions, a challenge more complicated for industries that rely on physical customer visits.
That raises the question: Is a shutdown of restaurants and stores coming to America?
It seems far-fetched, especially since consumer spending accounts for about 70 per cent of the U.S. economy. But in Italy on Wednesday, the government ordered all retailers, except for grocery stores and pharmacies, to be closed as another step in its battle against the virus.
Given its experience in China, Starbucks didn’t rule out shuttering locations.
“As a last resort, we will close a store if we feel it is in the best interest of our customers and partners, or if we are directed to do so by government authorities,” said Starbucks Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson.