Consumers can come back out of their shells now.
After more than a year of lockdowns, social distancing and mask mandates, the COVID-19 restrictions are finally easing in the U.S. as vaccinations rise.
“If you are fully vaccinated you can start doing many things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared, giving the go-ahead to many local governments and businesses to take a big, maskless step back to normality. (Officials stressed that people who are not vaccinated or are in close quarters, such as on public transportation, are required to or should continue to mask up).
For many, the green light to go maskless is a go-ahead to shop again.
Retailers, while still cautious on many fronts, are ready to move on to what’s next even if they’re taking a wait-and-see approach to masks. Here, a look at what some of the biggest retailers are saying and doing as the consumer landscape starts to open up.
This story is being updated as more information is available.
The world’s largest retailer quickly followed the CDC’s recommendation and declared that, where local regulations permit, “vaccinated customers and members are welcome to shop without a mask.”
Chief executive officer Doug McMillon told Wall Street analysts, he was seeing “encouraging signs that our customers want to get out and shop… Customers will decide how and when they want to shop, and they’ll find us ready, whether they want to shop in-store, pick up an order or have it delivered.”
The bull’s-eye-logoed retailer said it “no longer requires fully vaccinated guests and team members to wear face coverings in our stores, except where it’s required by local ordinances.”
Brian Cornell, chairman and CEO, said the company, which stayed open during the pandemic, has continue to gain market share now that retail overall has reawoken. “This year’s [first-quarter] sales growth reflected more than $1 billion in market share gains, a clear signal of how relevant guests find our experience even though they have many more shopping options available compared with this time last year.”
Since the CDC updated its guidance, Macy’s has adjusted its own policies. “Facial coverings are recommended but not required for vaccinated customers in all Macy’s Inc. store locations, except where state or local mandates require them,” the company said.
Jeffrey Gennette, chairman and CEO, said, “Consumers are ready to get out, reconnect with family and friends and celebrate life. Our customers are ready to spend, and demand is rising in categories we are positioned to win in….One of our most improved categories in the [first] quarter was luggage. Clearly, our customer is ready to get on with life.”
A spokesman for parent company The TJX Cos. Inc. said the company was still watching the situation as of May 19. “We are monitoring this matter closely, and at this time require associates and customers to wear face coverings while in our U.S. stores,” he said.
Ernie L. Herrman, president and ceo of parent company The TJX Cos. Inc., said: “In-store shopping is not going away. We see our stores as a desirable destination for consumers seeking some stress relief or “me time” and also a great place to shop when they are seeking inspiration and looking to discover new things.”
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