Walmart, Target Introduce New Safety Measures, Other COVID-19 Retail News
Here are the latest stories to emerge as retailers and brands deal with the impact that the global spread of the coronavirus has had on their businesses and the communities in which they operate. Total Retail Report's daily update offers retail executives the chance to stay-up-to-date on all that's happening within the retail industry.
- Walmart and Target introduced new safety measures to try and combat the spread of COVID-19 inside their stores. Walmart said it will allow no more than five customers per 1,000 square feet at a given time starting Saturday, which is roughly 20 percent of its normal capacity. Employees will admit customers one-by-one while counting to enforce this restriction. Once the store reaches capacity, customers will be allowed in on a “one-in-one-out” basis. Walmart is also instituting a one-way movement through some of its stores and using floor markers and direction from associates to better maintain social distancing. As part of its new safety measures, Target announced it will actively monitor the total number of people inside based on the store’s specific square footage. Target said it will also be will begin providing team members with high-quality, disposable face masks and gloves at the beginning of every shift.
- The Visa Foundation announced a commitment of two programs totaling $210 million to support small and micro businesses. The programs align with the Visa Foundation’s long-term focus on women’s economic advancement and inclusive economic development, and also address an urgent need from local communities following the spread of COVID-19. The first program of $10 million is designated for immediate emergency relief to support charitable organizations on the front lines responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as public health and food relief, in each of the five geographic regions in which Visa operates: North America; Latin America and the Caribbean; Europe; Asia Pacific; and Central Europe, Middle East and Africa. The second program is a five-year, strategic $200 million commitment to support small and micro businesses around the world, with a focus on fostering women’s economic advancement. The funds from the Visa Foundation will provide capital to non-government organizations and investment partners supporting small and micro businesses.
- GNC Holdings and Vera Bradley are the latest retailers to announce furloughs and other measures to shore up their balance sheets amid store shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic. GNC Holdings said late Friday it was temporarily furloughing a "significant portion" of its store and corporate employees. Those workers will maintain health benefits through at least this month, the retailer said. GNC also put into place a hiring freeze and cut merit raises, among other cost-cutting moves across its businesses except digital. Also late Friday, Vera Bradley said it would furlough most of its store employees and "certain" corporate employees "until it's considered safe and advisable to reopen our stores." Some of the company's distribution center employees were furloughed last week. The furloughed employees will have benefits for up to 12 weeks, the company said. Vera Bradley is also reducing salaries, including a 75 percent pay cut for CEO Rob Wallstrom, and temporarily cutting 401(k) company matches as well as charity donation matches, among other moves.
- Sara Blakely, the CEO and founder of shapewear brand Spanx, announced that she is giving $5 million to support female-run small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. GlobalGiving will be overseeing program, which Blakely is calling the Red Backpack Fund, making 1,000 grants of $5,000 each to female entrepreneurs in the U.S. The fund name alludes to her “lucky” red backpack from college that she used when she started Spanx. “It’s a nod to starting small while dreaming big, and is also a reminder that everything you need to succeed is right there on your back,” Blakely wrote. In addition to the financial gift, each woman will receive her own “lucky” red backpack, and the online education platform MasterClass is giving all of the women a free annual all-access pass to its classes, including Blakely’s entrepreneurship class.