Industry groups are sounding the call for the U.S. government to assist retailers hit hard by both voluntary and mandated social distancing, which has resulted in temporary store closures, altered shopping patterns and a shift towards online sales. Both the NRF and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) have released statements urging Congress and the Trump administration to offer retailers assistance during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The NRF wrote an open letter to politicians including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump to give retailers access to credit that could help them survive the coming months without missing their labor, rent and other payment obligations. The organization noted that 52 million Americans are employed by retailers, making it the largest private sector employer in the country.
“All our members are extremely focused on sustaining their workforce even if they have to close stores temporarily,” said Matthew Shay, President and CEO of the NRF in a statement. “Assistance in providing for payroll costs might help slow layoffs that will be inevitable if retail sales continue to collapse. Expanding the employee retention tax credit to businesses that are suffering financial losses because of this crisis would help to offset payroll costs at a time when sales are in a decline.”
The ICSC noted that shopping centers bring in nearly $400 billion annually in state and local taxes, and that government intervention could help them continue to provide that income. Additionally, their survival isn’t only important to the long-term health of their local communities — shopping centers also are assisting with efforts to mitigate the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“America’s shopping center owners, developers and tenants applaud the efforts that are taking place and are eager to support our nation as we confront this public health crisis,” said Tom McGee, President and CEO of ICSC in a statement. “ICSC members have and will continue to provide parking lots and unoccupied space to stage emergency supplies, facilitate the delivery of food and essential goods to fellow citizens and construct temporary health centers and shelter. Many of our members have already begun supporting local and national efforts with many more ready to assist immediately.”