DTC Leads the Charge of Retailers Closing Shops to Slow Spread of Coronavirus

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In recent days, the situation surrounding COVID-19 has reached new levels of intensity: Major festivals such as South by Southwest have been canceled, Disney has shut down all of its theme parks, and cities including Chicago, Los Angeles and New York are forcing restaurants to transition to takeout and delivery only. And retail hasn’t been exempt from the chaos.

Since the middle of last week, retailers have been announcing temporary closures of their brick-and-mortar locations, with direct-to-consumer brands leading the movement to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Buzzy, millennial-favorite beauty brand Glossier was one of the first brands to step up, shuttering its four permanent stores on March 13 for “at least two weeks,” as well as postponing the opening of its Arizona pop-up. Founder and CEO Emily Weiss announced the decision in a letter to the company, calling it “a tough call for many reasons.”

“In our New York City flagship alone, 2,000 people gather daily from around the world, often lining up down the block to connect with Glossier and with one another,” she wrote. “Our amazing offline editors are not just employees—they are the living embodiment of our brand and ethos, and hosts of sorts. So we’ll be compensating them for their scheduled time throughout our planned two weeks of closure.

“From a company perspective, by closing our stores we’ll sacrifice some near-term business goals, but we’re prepared to put public health ahead of our bottom line.”

Once Glossier made the announcement last Friday, more brands followed suit. Apparel and leather goods brand Cuyana, ethical fashion retailer Everlane and toy brand Camp all announced intentions to close their doors on March 14, while Allbirds, department store concept Neighborhood Goods and Warby Parker joined the list on March 15. (Allbirds’ stores in China, however, remain open.) On March 16, Outdoor Voices shut its 11 stores and postponed its upcoming community events. Jewelry brand Mejuri also closed its locations.

Of course, it’s perhaps a bit less of a financial hit for DTC brands to close their stores, as their brick-and-mortar footprint is typically smaller than that of major legacy retailers, and their businesses were built online through ecommerce. Allbirds, for example, has 18 stores worldwide, while Everlane has six, all in the United States.

Direct-to-consumer brands, of course, haven’t been the only retailers to voluntarily close their doors due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Apple became one of the first major U.S. retailers to announce a closure—the tech giant announced the closure of all stores outside of China late on Friday. Apple will continue to pay hourly workers and is matching employee donations to help fund COVID-19 response efforts.

“There is no mistaking the challenge of this moment,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “The entire Apple family is indebted to the heroic first responders, doctors, nurses, researchers, public health experts and public servants globally who have given every ounce of their spirit to help the world meet this moment.

“We do not yet know with certainty when the greatest risk will be behind us. And yet I have been inspired by the humanity and determination I have seen from all corners of our global community. As President Lincoln said in a time of great adversity: ‘The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.’”

Nike is another major retailer that shut down many of its its stores across the globe, from New Zealand to Western Europe and, of course, the United States. Its stores in most of China, Japan and South Korea, as well as other locations, will remain open.

On March 15, Patagonia, a retail brand known for taking action when it comes to environmental advocacy, announced that it would not only shut down its stores, but also its website. In a statement, the company said it intends to continue paying its workers throughout the shutdown.

Other major retailers that are shutting down brick-and-mortar operations for the time being include Abercrombie & Fitch, Urban Outfitters, Under Armour, REI, Lululemon and Lush.

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