NEW YORK – Macy's swung to a quarterly loss and sales tumbled 22% as the department store chain struggled to bring shoppers back to stores during a pandemic.
While the storied retailer did better than most had expected during the third quarter, cases of COVID-19 have begun to surge across the country just as what is typically the holiday shopping season kicks off.
Macy's has already closed its store in El Paso, Texas, where overwhelmed morgues have begun paying jail inmates $2 an hour to help transport the bodies of virus victims.
More closings could be on the way.
“COVID is surging again across the country and that continues to impede our recovery in international tourism and urban areas,” said Chief Financial Officer Adrian Mitchell. “And the supply chains have opened up, yet bottlenecks remain.”
Macy's, which has a store in Fort Wayne, was forced to close stores this spring as the virus spread and states and cities ordered nonessential businesses to shut down. The New York company furloughed a majority of its employees. It began reopening stores in May, but the recovery has been slow.
It has had to acclimate itself to one of the worst business climates in its 162-year history, and the U.S. appears to be heading to an even worse place as infections spread.
The pain is not being distributed equally in the retail sector, however. Some companies are thriving.
Sales at Target and Walmart, which were able to stay open during earlier lockdown, have surged as Americans consolidate trips to reduce exposure. Those big box stores have everything from clothing to cantaloupes under one roof and have become something of a lifeline during the pandemic.
And they are threatening traditional department stores at multiple levels. Target just launched a deal with the nation's largest beauty chain to put Ulta shops in 100 stores, potentially sapping sales from another lucrative floorspace for Macy's and others.
Macy's has spread sales events over a longer period of time to avoid overcrowding at its stores. It's also made an online push and encouraged curbside pickup, which did help in the most recent quarter.