Retailers   //   March 2, 2020

Retailers are restricting employee travel amid coronavirus outbreak

Safety concerns for workers and their surroundings has been top of mind for the retail industry, especially for companies that largely rely on China-based manufacturing and supply distribution. While many top brands have taken a hit to their projected bottom line due to the outbreak, preventing spread via business-related travel is the immediate priority. 

Retail offices across Europe have been reportedly encouraging working from home, along with restricting travel to affected regions, especially China, due to concerns over the deadly coronavirus. With the news of a Google employee being a confirmed case at their Switzerland office, more companies are taking active precautions to prevent spread. 

Here’s how other retailers are taking precautions to prevent an outbreak back home.

  • Amazon was one of the first retail companies to say it’s limiting travel for corporate employees, which it announced on Feb. 7, until further notice. An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the policy is still in place. “We are watching this situation closely with a focus on the safety of our teams and ensuring we can meet customer promises. We are closely following local and international health authority guidance as this situation progresses,” the company said.
  • During Macy’s’ Feb. 25 earnings call, CEO Jeff Gennette confirmed that the department store’s Hong Kong-based office has remained open. However, employees are allowed to use the flexible schedule policy the company first adopted during the SARS outbreak.
  • Walmart’s response to the coronavirus has included keeping China-based locations open at limited hours, which was confirmed during the company’s Feb. 18 investment community event. “We’re managing the issues related to the coronavirus daily,” said CEO Doug McMillon during the earnings overview. While the executive confirmed the company’s “primary focus is of course on our associates and our customers,” Walmart doesn’t have an official travel policy for its employees at the moment. Meanwhile, in a Jan. 31 blog post by Walmart International CEO Judith McKenna, she recommended store employees “enhance” general hygiene to prevent potential infections.
  • Home Depot is currently requiring that employees work from home for 14 days if they’ve recently traveled to China. Aside from the mandatory quarantine, the home improvement chain also said it’s restricting corporate employees’ travel to and from China.

To date, large retailers like Nike, Walmart and Lowe’s, and among others, have announced lowered revenue goals since the outbreak of coronavirus late last year. projections due to supply and store issues being impacted by coronavirus. The overall retailers also experiencing uncertainty over key pre-planned industry events. Shopify announced on Feb. 28 that it will not be hosting its Unite anticipated conference this May. “Due to the evolving public health concerns around COVID-19, we’ve made a hard but necessary decision to cancel the in-person element of Shopify Unite this year,” the company said in a statement.