The coronavirus shutdown is coming to more stores — and now to web sites as well.
Victoria’s Secret has temporarily shut down its e-commerce site, along with sister brand Pink, after parent company L Brands Inc. closed stores for the two brands earlier in the week.
And off-price giant TJX Cos. Inc. said its stores in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia would be shuttered for two weeks. It is also halting business on tjmaxx.com, marshalls.com, and sierra.com while its offices and distribution centers will be closed as well.
Kohl’s Corp. is closing its stores, but staying open for business online.
The move to close web sites is a new and troubling development for the industry, which is trying to keep up with the fast-moving outbreak. Many had clearly been hoping to recoup some sales lost when stores closed by ramping up online businesses, but apparently that won’t work — at least for every brand.
A message on Victoria’s Secret homepage said: “With constant breaking news regarding COVID-19, we have made the decision to temporarily close our online store through March 29. As with our previous announcement regarding store closures, we will be paying associates who are impacted by these actions. We ask for your understanding during this time relative to orders you may have placed that have not yet been fulfilled. Our customer care team will be sending out update e-mails in the next few days regarding order status.”
Earlier in the week, the lingerie brand’s parent company temporarily closed stores across all three brands, including the Bath & Body Works brand, until March 29. Leslie H. Wexner, founder and chairman of L Brands, said in a note to associates at the time that “For the Bath & Body Works business, we will continue to review the decision to potentially reopen select locations to meet our customers’ essential needs for hand soap and antibacterial products.”
L Brands wouldn’t comment on why it decided to shut down the lingerie brands’ web sites. Instead, a representative from the company directed WWD to a recent regulatory filing that disclosed the information.
“Subsequent to the issuance of the [March 17] press release, the company made the decision to suspend all new e-commerce orders for Victoria’s Secret and Pink through March 29, 2020,” the document reads. “The Bath & Body Works e-commerce business will continue to operate with prioritization on soaps and hand sanitizers. This business is fulfilled by a third party whose ability to continue to perform these services may be affected by developing circumstances. These decisions will be re-evaluated as new information becomes available regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.”
At TJX, which is one of the strongest retailers in the apparel world, steps were also taken to bolster the firm’s finances.
The company is drawing down $1 billion from its revolving credit facilities, suspending share repurchases, evaluating its dividend and looking to cut expenses.
Ernie Herrman, ceo and president, said: “TJX entered 2020 in a very strong financial position. We consider the actions that we announced today as just prudent steps we are taking to further strengthen our financial liquidity and flexibility during this uncertain environment. Additionally, while we are evaluating our dividend in the near term, I want to emphasize that we remain committed to paying our dividends whenever the environment normalizes for the long term, as we have been for decades.”
For now, Kohl’s is pressing on online and locking up its stores.
“We are closing all Kohl’s stores through at least April 1,” said Michelle Gass, Kohl’s chief executive officer. “We will support store associates with two calendar weeks of pay. We will continue to serve customers on Kohls.com and our Kohl’s App, and we look forward to reopening our stores soon to serve families across the country.”