Chico's FAS on Monday said it has a plan to reopen stores, in three phases, beginning May 4. "Store openings will be consistent with local health and safety guidelines and regulations," CEO Bonnie Brooks said in a press release.
The three steps are: tapping store inventory to fulfill online orders; providing in-store pickup of online orders, including at curbside; and offering sales at stores by appointment.
The company, which runs Chico's, Chico's Off the Rack, White House Black Market, White House Black Market Outlet, and Soma, also said it has seen double-digit growth in e-commerce since shuttering stores March 18, according to the release.
With these plans, Chico's brands are among the first out of the gate to take advantage of the easing of stay-at-home restrictions that were imposed to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Rules dictating that people stay home except for limited activities — which means shopping in stores only for essential goods — are set to expire in 29 states on or before May 1, and that could affect some 64% of the U.S. retailers with brick-and-mortar stores as followed by J.P. Morgan analysts, according to a note emailed to Retail Dive.
States in the Southeast, beginning with Georgia on April 24, are relaxing orders earliest. Northeastern states have generally been more cautious, with some of those governors banding together to develop plans, the analysts said. Even so, Georgia's permission has been extended to businesses like salons, bowling alleys, gyms, restaurants and movie theaters — but not yet nonessential retailers, Instinet analysts said.
Stay-home orders in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, D.C. and Maryland don't expire until mid-May. Wisconsin's order expires May 26. Virginia's on June 10. Many states in the West remain mum about plans to relax guidance, according to J.P. Morgan. "In our view — the wildcard to watch is the West region with CA, OR, and WA governors announcing a pact for a shared framework for the reopening of the states (w/ no joint date specified)," that team said.
In fact, much of this remains in flux as governors take stock of how the pandemic is affecting their populations, and what restrictions must stay in place in order to slow its spread. And then retailers themselves must plan carefully, as Chico's seems to have done, according to an April 26 note from Coresight Research CEO Deborah Weinswig. "This means that retailers anxious to reopen stores and generate revenue may open gradually, in stages," she said. "It is likely that companies are honing plans based on multiple reopening scenarios."
But really, the question for Chico's, or any retailer plotting to reopen where it will be allowed, is how many consumers will be in the mood to head to the mall.
"Given that the coronavirus is unlikely to be vanquished on a global scale by mid-May, we expect consumers to remain extremely cautious about protecting themselves — and retailers to be cautious about the safety of their staff and customers," Weinswig said.