Business Fallout: Best Buy curbside; Google launches site
Less than three months ago came the first reports of cases of pneumonia related to a virus first detected in Wuhan, China. The outbreak of the virus that causes COVID-19 has caused unprecedented disruptions that have brought an unparalleled shock to the global economy.
Following are weekend developments related to the outbreak, efforts by governments to stabilize their economies, companies that must navigate through an altered landscape, and the millions of people affected.
RETAIL IS CURBED: Best Buy,the nation's largest consumer electronics chain, is temporarily closing its stores and moving to curbside pickup service as it tries to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Earlier this week, Best Buy had started to limit the number of people in its stores to only 10 to 15 at a time.
“We are seeing a surge in demand across the country for products that people need to work or learn from home, as well as those products that allow people to refrigerate or freeze food,” said Best Buy's CEO Corie Barry in a statement. "As we meet the demand for these necessities, we are adjusting how we operate in many ways to improve safety.”
Best Buy customers can also still order online or on its app and have their products shipped directly to their homes.
The Minneapolis-based chain is joining thousands of other retailers not viewed as essential in temporarily closing its stores. Like many others, it's also trying to preserve its business. It's withdrawing its annual earnings guidance and is drawing the full amount of its $1.25 billion revolving credit line to shore up cash. Best Buy has also suspended all share repurchases, similar to such retailers as Kohl's and Nordstrom.
HELP NEEDED: Grocery chain Kroger Co. joins a growing list of retail and restaurant chains offering special bonuses or sweetening benefits to workers. The grocery chain said that full-time hourly workers will receive a one-time special bonus of $300, while part-time workers will receive $150. The bonuses will be paid to workers who were hired on or before March 1. Kroger is also expanding its emergency leave guidelines to include paid-time off for those workers in self-isolation or who have symptoms as verified by an accredited health care professional.
Target Corp. said Friday it will give a $2 an hour wage increase to its 300,000-plus workers who have been scrambling to help customers. The pay bump will be effective at least through May 2. It's also begun offering workers who are pregnant, 65 years old or older, or who have underlying health risks, access to paid leave for up to 30 days. Amazon and Walmart are also offering extra incentives like cash bonuses or a temporary wage bump as they try to manage the crush of customers while simultaneously looking to keep their workers happy.
Starbucks said it will pay its workers for the next 30 days, whether they come to work or stay home. The coffee chain also said it is temporarily closing access to its stores across the U.S., and reducing services to drive thru and delivery only.
GOOGLE RESOURCES: Google has launched a new website and enhanced its search options for people seeking information about the new coronavirus, but the effort falls short of a plan initially announced by President Donald Trump. As of Saturday, when U.S. users type in search terms like “coronavirus,” information including symptoms and links to state health departments and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will pop up on the right. Google also unveiled a new website, http://www.google.com/covid19/, that links users to data, safety videos and relief efforts. Google said the website will soon be available in more languages and countries.
A little more than a week ago, Trump said Google would facilitate a website that would guide users through a series of questions to determine whether they should be screened for the virus. Then it would direct them to a local testing location. But that was not a nationwide effort. Verily, a Google sibling company focused on health care, confirmed it was working on such a site, but so far it is only available in certain counties in the San Francisco area.
Google also announced Friday it will no longer hold its annual developer conference this year. The Google I/O conference was initially moved online, but the company said it has been canceled to comply with California’s “shelter in place” directives.
This item has been corrected to note that Best Buy is shifting to curbisde pickup service, not curbside delivery.