How the Coronavirus May Affect U.S. Retailers

For months, the National Retail Federation has been apprising its members of the real and potential impacts on retail from the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. More recently, the trade organization erected a page on its website to dedicated to tracking COVID-19 news and resources, including the link to the official World Health Organization COVID-19 website.

Following the news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week that an outbreak of the virus in the United States appears to be inevitable (though the size of a U.S. outbreak is still indeterminable), retailers are rightfully worried about risks to their and their employees’ health. The business of retailing hinges on interactions with a revolving door of consumers—come one, come all. And guarding workers against infections such as COVID-19 in busy store environments poses challenges. 

The NRF wrote a memo to its members, posted on the web page, that addresses some of the most widespread concerns. Here are a few takeaways from that memo and the larger NRF COVID-19 platform:

++ “The CDC does not believe the coronavirus can be transmitted on merchandise imported from China.”

++ “It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions…. If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.”

++ “With coronavirus causing longer Lunar New Year shutdowns of factories in China, imports at major U.S. retail container ports are expected to see a sharper-than-usual drop [in February],” according to the Global Port Tracker report released Wednesday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

++ NRF vice president of supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said, “Many Chinese factories have already stayed closed longer than usual, and we don’t know how soon they will reopen. U.S. retailers were already beginning to shift some sourcing to other countries because of the trade war, but if shutdowns continue, we could see an impact on supply chains.”

++ Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said, “Projecting container volume for the next year has become even more challenging with the outbreak of the coronavirus in China and its spread.”

++ Quote from the World Health Organization: “The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. About 2% of people with the disease have died. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.”

(Photo: Pexels)

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JCK Magazine Editor