Retailers are increasingly joining in on the mask debate — which favors medical science on one side and something else on the other — and are coming out in favor of covering up.
Shortly after Walmart Inc. said Wednesday that it would require all customers to wear masks and the National Retail Federation suggested other companies should follow suit, Kohl’s Corp. and Target Corp. both said consumers would have to don masks to shop in-store.
Target’s policy starts on Aug. 1 and will not apply to people with underlying medical conditions or young children.
“Given the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the role masks play in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, our store team members also already wear masks when they come to work, which we provide for them,” Target said.
Target will be giving disposable masks to customers who don’t have one.
The national policy push extends and standardizes the mask approach for retailers, which have been following a mish-mash of local and state regulations on the issue. Target already was requiring that people wear face coverings in 80 percent of its nearly 1,900 doors.
Kohl’s noted that about 70 percent of its more than 1,100 stores were already subject to face-covering mandates and that all of its employees were required to wear masks.
The policy at Kohl’s, which does not apply to people who can’t wear masks for medical reasons, takes effect on Monday and will incorporate a variety of reminders for shoppers.
“Customers will see signage at the front of the store to inform them of our face-covering policy,” Kohl’s said. “Store associates have been trained on the new health and safety measures in place, and we have associate greeters at the entrance of each store to welcome shoppers and remind them to wear masks.”
When customers wear masks, front-line retail workers are safer — a topic of growing concern in the pandemic.
Businesses have already been taking many steps to ensure employee safety and soon might start to get a tax break for their efforts.
The NRF applauded new legislation on Thursday that would create a tax credit to help offset the cost of employee testing, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other measures to keep workplaces humming during the pandemic.
A 40-employee store that spends $60,000 on covered costs would receive a $30,000 tax credit, the NRF said, which noted that face masks alone can cost $1 a day per employee.
Momentum on the issue of masks has been building, both as retailers find themselves in the awkward position of having to police their customers’ social distancing and as COVID-19 cases have spiked in California, Texas, Florida and elsewhere.
Earlier this month, a group of trade groups, including the NRF and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, appealed to President Trump to “develop model mandatory mask policies that are simple and do not impose the enforcement burden on organizations without such expertise, such as businesses.”
But in asking for a federal standard, the lobbyists have had to turn to Trump, who has been lukewarm to the advice of his government’s medical experts.
Trump recently told Fox News: “I think it’s fine to wear a mask if it makes you feel comfortable.…It’s up to you.” Shortly after that, he appeared in public wearing a mask for the first time, flanked by military officers while visiting a hospital in Washington.
He might well have to mask up again if he ever leaves the White House on a shopping trip.