Most major department stores and chain stores (except Dillard’s) have temporarily closed their doors during the pandemic caused by COVID-19. However, many grocery stores and drug stores remain open and are under stress because of the surge of customers shopping for – and buying – necessary food, household, and health items. Demand is pushing them to actually add staff even as many other businesses have had to furlough their employees.
While figures are sketchy, I have listed a number of companies who are hiring. Many of these companies are adding staff on an accelerated basis. The need is immediate to help customers; they need to move quickly to satisfy immediate needs.
Here are some of the companies that are hiring.
Walmart: The company has announced it will hire 150,000 new associates for their stores, clubs, and distribution and fulfillment centers. They are at this point temporary hires through the end of May, but many may be retained as regular employees. The company has shortened the hiring process from two weeks to 24 hours. Prospective employees can apply on-line or phone the manager who can screen the applicant and hire them right over the phone.
Amazon: Amazon has announced the hiring of 100,000 employees. The company also raised pay by $2 for warehouse and delivery workers through the end of April.
CVS: CVS will add 50,000 employees. The company will try to fill the positions by tapping former workers from Hilton Hotels and Marriott Hotels where thousands of employees have been furloughed. Hiring is done by phone calls with the human resources staff.
Domino: The pizza company will hire 10,000 more employees. This includes delivery drivers, pizza makers, and even store managers. It will use video chats to hire employees.
Papa John’s: This pizza maker will hire 20,000 employees.
Yum Brands: This fast food chain will hire 30,000 employees.
Save a Lot: The company will hire 1,000 temporary employees.
While fancy restaurants with waiter service are out of style right now, fast food delivery service is getting the lion share of what business still exists. I am not sure how safe the delivery service is for the hungry family, since I wonder how strictly companies follow the sanitary protocol prescribed by the government agencies. However, a hamburger, chicken, or pizza meal will keep the family happy.
A look at department stores shows a very different story.
Dillard’s, the department store headquartered in Little Rock, Ark. is the one major chain still keeping stores open in most locations for a shorter schedule each day. Only those stores where local mandates do not permit stores to be open are closed. Out of their 290 stores, I estimate that 270 are still servicing customers on a limited time basis. The shortened schedule allows time for the company to maintain a sanitary condition in each of the stores. According to a CNBC report, however, employees are unhappy that Dillard stores are still open and exposing them to health risks.
On the other hand, Nordstrom has extended their store closings to May 10, 2020 and will furlough many of their associates on April 5. Macy’s has indicated that the previously announced April 1 reopening is unlikely and that the company is likely to remain closed for a longer period. JCPenney, who originally indicated they would reopen April 2, also is expected to extend the time stores are closed.
It means that the Easter business will be largely non-existent this year for most retailers, and stores will remain closed until it is safe for customers to shop in their accustomed manner. Many stores have ensured that they maintain a liquid position by drawing down their credit facility, suspending their dividend, deferring and capital expenditures. Jeff Gennette, CEO of Macy’s, eliminated his salary for the duration.
Earnings in the first quarter of 2020 will be minimal or non-existent for many companies. Retailers are cancelling orders and doing everything possible to have a credible year if the threat of the coronavirus subsides. Longer term we will have to worry about the government’s debt burden which has been increased by the $2 Trillion aid package passed by the Congress. It is a necessary first step – but it may not be the last and may greatly increase inflationary pressure in the future.