March 17, 2020 / 1:25 AM / 5 days ago

Nordstrom shuts stores, pulls 2020 outlook due to coronavirus

(Reuters) - Nordstrom Inc (JWN.N) said on Monday it would temporarily shut its stores in the United States and Canada and pull its fiscal 2020 forecast, as the upscale retailer joins its peers in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: The Nordstrom store is pictured in Broomfield, Colorado, February 23, 2017.REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The department store operator said it would close its stores for two weeks starting March 17, while keeping its apps and websites open, including Nordstrom.com, Nordstromrack.com, HauteLook.com. The company said it would provide pay and benefits for store employees during the period.

Seattle-based Nordstrom operates 380 stores in 40 states, including 116 full-line stores and 248 off-price Nordstrom Rack stores.

The company also suspended its share buyback program as part of a plan to further cut its expenses and withdrew its 2020 outlook.

“While February sales were in line with expectations, the company experienced a broad-based deceleration in customer demand over the past couple of weeks, particularly in markets most affected by the virus,” Nordstrom said in a statement.

Nordstrom, like other brick-and-mortar retailers, has struggled to deal with disruptions caused by a rise in cases of the respiratory illness in the United States, particularly in its key markets, such as Seattle, New York City and Los Angeles.

The Seattle area has been at the center of the outbreak in the United States, with Washington State reporting about 904 confirmed cases of the virus and 48 deaths as of Monday.

New York City and Los Angeles ordered restaurants, theaters, bars and movie houses to close, as cities across the country attempt to check the spread of the coronavirus.

Nordstrom opened its flagship store in New York last year in a bid to attract new customers with a suite of services including cafes, fine-dining restaurants and a full bar.

Several other retailer, including Casper Inc (CSPR.N) and Guess? Inc (GES.N), said they would be closing all their retail stores in the coming days, assuring that their employees would receive pay and benefits.

The United States has seen a sharp increase in virus cases, with more than 4,300 infected and at least 80 people dead, according to Johns Hopkins University and public health agencies.

Reporting by Bhargav Acharya and Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni and Anil D'Silva

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