Walmart temporarily closed nearly 60 U.S. stores for COVID cleanup in December

A Walmart sign is seen inside its department store in West Haven, Connecticut, USA on February 17, 2021. REUTERS / Mike Segar / File Photo

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CHICAGO, Jan. 3 (Reuters) – Walmart (WMT.N) temporarily closed nearly 60 U.S. stores in COVID-19 hotspots in December to disinfect them against the virus, a sign that the new Omicron variant is disrupting the retail industry. detail.

Walmart stores – in places like Texas and New Jersey – were closed for two days for cleaning “to present a safe and clean store environment for our associates and customers,” a company spokesperson said. to Reuters in a statement. Walmart has over 4,700 locations in the United States in total.

The company has not commented on the potential impact of the closures.

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Two years ago at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it adopted a policy of closing stores for less than two days to “anticipate” potential epidemics.

“We are closely monitoring our stores across the country, making the decision to temporarily close stores store-by-store through collection of market-related data,” the Walmart spokesperson said, declining to confirm there. had staff. COVID-19 cases in closed places.

The world’s largest retailer also has not commented on whether it sees an increase in the number of workers testing positive for COVID-19.

The United States has seen an increase in the number of cases of the Omicron variant, leading retailers and restaurant chains to temporarily close stores and limit access to customers.

A Laurel, Md., Walmart facility was closed last week because that community was experiencing coronavirus cases, according to a memo shown to Reuters by two Walmart employees. They said several people in the store had contracted COVID-19, which Walmart declined to confirm.

If COVID-related store closures disrupt Walmart’s operations until the end of January, they could start to worry some investors, said John Augustine, chief investment officer at Huntington Private Bank, which invests in Walmart, Target (TGT. N) and several other retailers.

Walmart rival Target told Reuters it had not closed any Target stores for disinfection or other COVID-related reasons since early December. CVS said it had temporarily closed “less than 10 sites” for “improved cleaning” during this period.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that retailers “close off areas used by the sick person and not use those areas until they have cleaned and disinfected.” The CDC does not strictly recommend store closings.

The increase in COVID-19 cases has led Apple Inc (AAPL.O) to limit service at some New York area stores, including its iconic Fifth Avenue flagship. The iPhone maker has cut opening hours Monday through Thursday and limited the number of customers allowed in the store, according to its website. The site also showed that some Apple stores were temporarily closed in Georgia, Tennessee and California.

It was not immediately clear why the stores were closed and Apple did not respond to a request for comment. Apple derives about 5% of its total sales from its outlets, according to Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives. With 516 stores worldwide, that’s about $ 35 million in sales per store, according to Reuters calculations.

Some restaurateurs said their businesses were also affected.

In mid-December, when COVID-19 cases started to skyrocket in New York City, Bravo Pizza was forced to close for an entire day because six employees were sick, the Bravo owner said.

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said “dozens” of restaurants in the city had temporarily closed.

Dan Jacobs, co-owner of DanDan and two other Milwaukee restaurants, said his establishments lost $ 80,000 in business between Christmas and New Years as staff caught COVID-19 or called because it was afraid of getting sick.

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Reporting by Richa Naidu and Danielle Kaye; Additional reports by Siddharth Cavale and Hilary Russ; Editing by Vanessa O’Connell, Anna Driver and Stephen Coates

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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