Riots and looting over the weekend have taken their toll on retail reopening plans all over the U.S. in the wake of protests against excessive police force and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Retail locations of all types and brands went unspared, from Los Angeles to New York City, as protests turned violent. Even with many companies closing and boarding their locations, the damage will be hard to overcome on the heels of the devastation caused by the pandemic.
“In normal times, businesses would probably take it in their stride,” Neil Saunders, a retail analyst at GlobalData Retail, told The Washington Post. “But coming off the back of the pandemic, it’s devastating.”
The hardest-hit area appeared to be New York City. Several local news outlets reported broken windows and looting from the city’s SoHo district all the way to posh upper Fifth Avenue. The stores hit numbered in the hundreds, including Versace, Coach, Bloomingdale’s and Chanel. The most devastated retailer, regardless of location, was Target – particularly its flagship Lake Street store in Minneapolis.
“Every day, our team wakes up ready to help all families – and on the hardest days, we cling even more dearly to that purpose,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell in a statement released Monday morning (June 1). “As I write this, our merchant and distribution teams are preparing truckloads of first aid equipment and medicine, bottled water, baby formula, diapers and other essentials, to help ensure that no one within the areas of heaviest damage and demonstration is cut off from needed supplies. It’s hard to see now, but the day will come for healing—and our team will join our hearts, hands and resources in that journey. Even now, Target leaders are assembling community members, partners and local officials to help identify what more we can do together and what resources are required to help families, starting right here in Minnesota.”
Despite the damage – and despite more proactive store closing announcements from Apple, Target and other companies – recovery was the dominant message early Monday. According to The Washington Post, “Starbucks executives hosted forums for employees to talk about the issues and their feelings. Best Buy’s senior leadership team – which stated ‘we are as a group, by and large, not people of color’ – penned a note pledging to commit to diversity and inclusion goals.”
From a strictly business perspective, the riots and looting came as every state had given the green light for retailers to reopen from pandemic lockdowns. While that retail recovery was not spectacular by any means, it did appear to be growing consistently. According to a report released Monday by real estate developer Marcus & Millichap, some sectors were on their way to normal sales levels.
“With the reopenings, apparel stores saw a 109 percent rise in a period from April to May 10 and the dining category saw a 69 percent increase,” according to Marcus & Millichap. “Similarly, the stronger-performing retail categories like grocery, dollar and drugstores and mass merchandisers also saw a return to normal levels of customer volume. However, grocery stores also experienced a drop in customers, with a 4 percent decrease from January to April that led into a 22 percent decline from April to May 10.”