Some retailers go dark, malls reduce hours and online sales surge

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Brick-and-mortar retailers large and small have temporarily closed their doors as a precaution amid growing concerns about the coronavirus. Other shopping destinations, such as malls, have reduced hours.

National chains that have closed their stores include Macy's, Nike, Nordstrom, Apple and Under Armour.

The Nike store on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit is closed, as are other Nike stores around the U.S.

Even as those companies try to make up for the shortfall with online sales, the biggest online players — notably, Amazon and Walmart — have shifted into top gear. 

Amazon said Monday it is looking to hire 100,000 people to handle the processing and delivery of increased volumes of packages. Amazon Prime deliveries that in the past would have been delivered in a day or two are now taking long in some cases.

In Metro Detroit, some malls and shopping centers have temporarily cut back hours, including Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn and The Mall at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township. Some stores, like the Apple store at Partridge Creek, have locked their doors.

At Somerset in Troy, the mall said Tuesday it will maintain its hours of operation while some of its stores and restaurants have cut back hours or are temporarily closed. “The Somerset Collection fully supports each of our retail partners in their individual decisions to assist in stemming the COVID-19 pandemic,” the mall posted on its website.

A sign on the door of the Nike store on Woodward explains why their stores are temporarily dark.

In downtown Detroit, the doors to Nike, Under Armour and H&M along Woodward Avenue were locked. A sign on the door of the Nike store informs would-be shoppers that due to recommendations from local and federal health and government officials, its locations in the United States and Canada would be closed through March 27.

More than 14,500 store locations are temporarily shuttering, accounting for nearly 5% of retail square footage in the U.S., according to Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, a retail research firm. That number will only get higher, the analyst said.

The coronavirus outbreak is happening amid an already widening gap in sales performance between the big-box stores and mall-based clothing chains, which have been too slow to respond to shoppers’ shift to online spending.

Analysts believe that gap will only further widen between those who sell non-essential items like clothing versus those who sell basics like food and cleaning products.

One way businesses can survive financially during and after the outbreak is by gearing more toward the trend of online ordering and direct delivery, said Joe Jackman, CEO of Jackman Reinvents, a Toronto-based brand strategist.

“That is a trend that has been going on for some time and this is accelerating it,” he said. “And what we expect to see as this plays out and even after, this will be a further tipping point to online penetration."

The Associated Press contributed.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN