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RETAIL RECKONING

Many of the “temporary” store closures from Covid-19 are going to be permanent

Mannequins and empty merchandise tables are visible through the window of the temporarily closed Nordstrom flagship department store
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
The only bodies in this Nordstrom are mannequins.
  • Marc Bain
By Marc Bain

Fashion reporter

In mid-March, as Covid-19 spread through the US, upscale department store Nordstrom announced it would close its stores in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico to help slow the outbreak. Those stores included all 116 full-line Nordstrom department stores in those regions. Sixteen of those shops, or nearly 14%, will never reopen, the company said on May 5.

It’s not likely to be the last retailer to turn temporary closures into permanent ones. “Nordstrom is probably one of the healthier businesses, at least in the department store channel,” says Doug Stephens, founder of the Retail Prophet consultancy  and author of multiple books on retail, including a forthcoming title on business after the pandemic. “If they’re taking that sort of reflective look at their physical footprint, I suspect others will as well.”

Some stores might reopen only to close for good shortly after, as it becomes clear they won’t last. Lord & Taylor is even planning to reopen its 38 department stores just to liquidate inventory in a bankruptcy it’s not expected to survive, according to Reuters.

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