Macy’s reopens some stores as coronavirus changes shopping experience

Retail giant reopens 68 of its 775 stores after being shut down for nearly 6 weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic

Socially-distanced shopping will resume for some shoppers Monday, as retail giant Macy’s reopens 68 of its 775 stores after being shut down for nearly six weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The department store giant, like many other retailers, temporarily closed all of its stores to help contain the spread of the virus, baring the financial burden as a result and furloughing the majority of its staff in March. Now, it will reopen in states like South Carolina and Georgia where there are more relaxed restrictions on stay-at-home orders. The retailer plans to open the next 50 stores on May 11.

A window display at Macy's on in Washington, D.C., is pictured on Friday, April 24, 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Macy’s stores will also operate on shorter hours, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and nearly 25 percent of them will be in malls. The shopping experience, however, will look much different. Macy’s cosmetics departments will offer “no-touch” makeup assistance giving consumers the option to test products on a paper diagram of a face, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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The store will also open fewer fitting rooms, and shoppers will also be mandated to use hand sanitizer before trying on watches and fine jewelry and display cases will be frequently sanitized, according to the Journal. At checkout, there will also reportedly be a plexiglass barrier to ensure social distance and keypads will be wiped down after each use.

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MMACY'S INC.6.17+0.96+18.43%

Macy’s reopening its stores comes as a number of retailers are struggling to stay afloat. J. Crew announced Monday it was filing for bankruptcy protection as a result of widespread store closures due to the pandemic, and last month high-end department store Neiman Marcus prepared to seek bankruptcy protection after it was forced to temporarily close down 43 of its stores and furlough a large number of its 14,000 employees.

And when more stores are able to reopen, whether they should take returns during the pandemic has also been a health and safety concern. While some stores initially restricted returns as a way to safeguard against the spread, Target said it would start accepting them again in stores this month.

But even when more stores are able to reopen, foot traffic will be slow, particularly at shopping malls, considering more than half of consumers said in a survey from earlier this year they would avoid public shopping places. 

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U.S. retail sales hit the biggest decline in history in March, plunging by 8.7 percent as the virus forced businesses around the country to shutter as consumers were told to stay at home. It was the most substantial decline since the government began tracking retail sales in 1992. February’s report was revised to a 0.4 percent decline.

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