Things are getting a bit testy in retail land. The world’s largest retail trade group sent a letter on Monday (March 16) to the National Governors Association and the U.S. Conference of Mayors stating its subtle displeasure about retailers finding out about mandatory store closures in the press. The National Retail Federation (NRF) has asked governors and mayors to essentially call first before closing or curtailing retail hours to deal with the COVID-19 virus.
In a joint letter to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, chairman of the National Governors Association, and Bryan Barnett, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and mayor of Rochester Hills, Michigan, the NRF and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) asked officials to coordinate with them before making decisions on whether to close or curtail retail business operations.
“This is an unprecedented situation that demands an 'all-hands-on-deck' approach, and community retailers are eager to do their part,” said the letter, signed by NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay and RILA President Brian Dodge. “Retailers prepare in advance for crisis situations to allow them to continue serving the critical needs of their customers by quickly and thoughtfully adjusting a wide variety of practices, including those related to their supply chains, stores and employees. Families are counting on retailers right now and retailers are determined to be there for them.”
Advance notice, the retailers’ groups say, will help merchants prepare for potential panic-buying and enable stores to scope out supply chain issues.
“We encourage elected officials to make every attempt to reach out – in advance –to retail leaders to discuss recommendations on whether to close or curtail business operations. It is also important that, if a recommendation is made, it provides sufficient time for employers to craft and put in place contingency plans for employees and those impacted communities before it becomes effective.”
While the letter was polite and polished, the sentiment was clear regarding recommended or even mandatory store closings.
Other retail news was decidedly more on the generous side. Supermarket giant Kroger and the Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation announced a $3 million commitment to deploy hunger relief resources to communities hit by the pandemic. The commitment will be distributed between the foundation's nonprofit partners, Feeding America and No Kid Hungry. The initiative will support local food banks nationwide and will focus on children whose schools may be closed.
"Our most urgent mission is to be here for our customers when they need us most, and our store, warehouse, distribution, food production and office associates are working around the clock to keep our stores open for our customers," said Keith Dailey, Kroger's group vice president of corporate affairs.
Grubhub is also contributing to the struggle. The food delivery company announced it is temporarily suspending collection of up to $100 million in commission payments from impacted independent restaurants nationwide. Grubhub said it will provide immediate and substantial cash flow relief to its 350,000 qualified independent restaurants, which drive more than 80 percent of the company's orders.
Grubhub has also created a fund that will enable proceeds from its Donate the Change program to go toward supporting restaurants and drivers impacted by the crisis. The company will allow diners to round up the change from every order and donate it to the Grubhub Community Relief Fund, with donations from members matched by the company. Grubhub has been raising more than $1 million per month through Donate the Change.
"Independent restaurants are the lifeblood of our cities and feed our communities,” said Matt Maloney, Grubhub founder and CEO. “They have been amazing long-term partners for us, and we wanted to help them in their time of need. Our business is their business – so this was an easy decision for us to make.”