Major Retailers, Restaurants Begin Cautious Reopening
A number of major non-grocery retailers are tiptoeing back into business by reopening, beginning in states that allow it.
Gap Inc., all of whose stores are currently closed, will kick off its plan this weekend in Texas by reopening a small number of stores, though the company didn't specify a number. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order allowing retail stores to reopen, though at 25% of their pre-pandemic occupancy limits.
After the Texas openings, Gap Inc. says it plans to open as many as 800 stores out of a total of more than 2,500 nationwide. The company's brands include Old Navy, Athleta, Gap, Banana Republic, Janie and Jack and Intermix stores.
Department store company Kohl's has also started reopening stores, beginning with locations in Arkansas, Oklahoma and South Carolina this Monday. An unspecified number of additional Kohl's will open in 10 other states next Monday. All together, the company operates more than 1,150 stores nationwide under that brand.
Makeup specialist Ulta Beauty plans to reopen more than 180 locations on Monday in Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. Some of the locations will offer hair services. Ulta operates about 1,250 U.S. locations all together.
Besides restricting the number of customers that can be in a store at the same time, the major retailers are following similar new pandemic-inspired protocols. All of them are requiring their employees to wear masks, and are asking customers to do so.
Other common measures include the installation of transparent shields at checkout, using signs and floor markers to encourage social distancing, checking employee temperatures and offering hand sanitizer stations in many places.
Fitting rooms in the major retailers will remain closed and the use of beauty testers is still suspended. The chains are also offering touchless payment through store apps.
In reopening its hair services in states that allow it, Ulta has made its services by appointment only, mandating masks for workers and customers, more widely staggering chairs, and increasing the laundering of capes and aprons, according to the company.
Major restaurant chains are likewise rolling out cautious reopening plans. Cheesecake Factory plans to reopen as soon as next week.
"We believe we are well-positioned for a strong restart," Cheesecake Factory CEO David Overton said on Tuesday during the company's most recent earnings call. "With a number of states now reopening or communicating their plans to soon open, we have shifted to planning for the reopening of our dining rooms."
The company is looking to reopen at 50% capacity in places where it is allowed. "We're not anticipating having a struggle to get the restaurants open at that 50% capacity level," company President David Gordon said.
"I know that hearing from staff ... there are a lot of people who want to get back to work that are excited to get back into that, a little more social environment, as long as they know that it's safe," Gordon said.
Applebee's and IHOP, both units of Dine Brands Global, opened restaurants as soon as allowed late in April, in Georgia and Tennessee.
By reopening at 50% capacity, the company is following Tennessee's regulations, although traffic hasn't been enough yet for that to be an issue, Dine CEO Steve Joyce told Nation's Restaurant News.