The openings will include Old Navy, Gap(GPS), Banana Republic and Athleta brand stores. Gap said that fitting rooms and public restrooms will be closed. Before putting returns back on the sales floor, Gap will quarantine the clothes for 24 hours. And social distancing signs will be put up in stores.
The “biggest challenge” for Gap with the reopenings is “understanding the unique requirements by county and state,” CEO Sonia Syngal said in an interview with CNN.
“There’s such a big range — and it takes quite a bit time to interpret the differences —rather than have something that is more consistent,” she added. “As retailers, we really need that partnership from government.”
Other corporate leaders have called on government leaders to help guide their return.
IBM’s (IBM)new CEO Arvind Krishna said Tuesday that the government should create standards to guide companies on how to help employees return to the office after working from home.
“My hope is that government can help in giving us all some common standards, otherwise, we may return to work but a client we call on may have a different standard,” Krishna said in an interview with CNN’s Julia Chatterley. “That would cause a lot of mayhem.”
More than 70,000 Americans have died from the virus, and public health officials have warned that states easing their restrictions too quickly may lead to tens of thousands of more deaths.
Gap’s first stores will open in Texas this weekend. The company has more than 2,750 total stores in North America, but it can’t reopen all of them because some states have restricted “non-essential” retailers from opening to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Macy’s(M), Best Buy(BBY) and mall giant Simon Property Group(SPG) announced plans to reopen last week. Nordstrom(JWN) signaled Tuesday that it will begin reopening stores in a “phased approach.”
Their plans come as the pandemic hits an already weakened brick-and-mortar retail industry, forcing steep sales drops, worker furloughs and layoffs.
Gap warned last month that $1 billion in cash has evaporated from its accounts since February, and said it stopped paying April rent to landlords in stores that were temporarily closed. Gap has furloughed roughly 80,000 store employees during the crisis and cut executive pay.
The company in recent years has struggled to compete against fast-fashion competitors as well as Amazon and other ecommerce players. It planned to split off its Old Navy brand, once a bright spot for the retailer, into a separate company, but scrapped the plan earlier this year.
Syngal said in an interview that the company was “using this crisis as an opportunity to really think about what we want our business to look like in the future.”