Retailers already hit by coronavirus board up as U.S. protests rage

Jessica Resnick-Ault
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Retailers already hit by coronavirus board up as U.S. protests rage

Community members help clean debris and graffiti the morning after a rally against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Seattle

By Jessica Resnick-Ault

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Target Corp <TGT.N> and Walmart said on Sunday they shuttered stores across the United States as retailers already reeling from closures because of the coronavirus pandemic shut outlets amid protests that included looting in many U.S. cities.

Protests turned violent in places including New York and Chicago following the death in Minneapolis of a black man, George Floyd, seen on video gasping for breath as a white police officer knelt on his neck.

In Los Angeles, protests led to the looting of the Alexander McQueen clothing store on Rodeo Drive, and a Gucci store on the vaunted strip was marked with the graffiti slogan: "Eat the rich," according to local media reports.

In the nearby Grove Shopping Center, which houses 51 upscale stores, Nordstrom, Ray Ban and Apple were broken into. Nordstrom Inc <JWN.N> temporarily closed all its stores on Sunday, it told Reuters in an emailed statement.

"We hope to reopen our doors as soon as possible," the statement said. "We had impacts at some of them and are in the process of assessing any damage so we can resume serving customers."

Apple Inc <AAPL.O> said in an email statement it also had decided to keep a number of its U.S. stores closed on Sunday. The company did not specify how many stores were closed, or if the closures would be extended.

The violence was widespread, and Minnesota-based Target said it was closing or limiting hours at more than 200 stores. It did not specify how long the closures would last.

The company told Reuters it was beginning to board up its Lake Street store in Minneapolis, near where Floyd was killed, for safety and to begin recovery efforts. The company said in a statement that it would plan to reopen the store late this year.

"There is certainly potential for the resulting social unrest to hurt certain businesses like retailers and restaurants, and for it to further dent consumer and business sentiment," said Robert Phipps, director at Per Stirling. "It is even possible, particularly if the unrest continues and spreads, that it would, all other things being equal, have a significant impact on investor psychology and the markets." 

Walmart closed some stores in Minneapolis and Atlanta after protests Friday, and closed several hundred stores at 5 p.m. on Sunday, a spokesman said. "We’ll look at them each day, and at how each community is impacted and make decisions then," the spokesman said.

Online retailer Amazon said it was monitoring the situation closely. "In a handful of cities we’ve adjusted routes or scaled back typical delivery operations to ensure the safety of our teams," the company said in an emailed statement.

U.S. retail sales have posted record declines as the novel coronavirus pandemic kept Americans at home, putting the economy on track for its biggest contraction in the second quarter since the Great Depression in the 1930s.


(Reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault; Additional reporting by Sinead Carew and Ismail Shakil; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Peter Cooney and Diane Craft)