GameStop Says It's "Essential Retail," But Closes Stores In California

GameStop considers itself "essential retail" and would like managers to state as much if authorities come to shut them down.

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Update: Despite a note to managers to remain open even in defiance of local authorities, the retail chain has reportedly shut down its retail stores in California, via Kotaku. This follows after California Gov. Gavin Newsom issuing a statewide order to stay at home. The note from GameStop announcing the California closures says it will remain "as we obtain more information from the California Governor’s Office." The original story follows.

GameStop has issued a memo to its stores instructing them to remain open during the coronavirus outbreak, even if that policy defies state orders. According to the note, if authorities attempt to shut down the games retailer by deeming them "non-essential," managers are to respond that the company views it as "essential retail." The instructions included a flyer to hand to law enforcement in case the need arises.

Vice reports that the memo was verified by five employees. The retail chain's reasoning is that it sells products that are helpful during this time when customers are being ordered to maintain social distancing. (Note that GameStop sells more than just video games.) However, continuing to remain open at all runs contrary to social distancing, and employees will need to interface with several customers, posing a potential public health risk.

"Due to the products we carry that enable and enhance our customers' experience in working from home, we believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time," the memo states. "We have received reports of local authorities visiting stores in an attempt to enforce closure despite our classification. Store managers are approved to provide the document linked below to law enforcement as needed."

Though many states have issued guidance for citizens to practice social distancing and avoid large crowds, a few like Nevada, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey have issued orders to shut down non-essential businesses. Some retailers have announced temporary shutdowns voluntarily, but GameStop has planned to remain open. This comes during a big week for the industry with the dual launches of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom Eternal. To mitigate crowds, the retailer canceled midnight launch events and staggered its sale dates for each game, going so far as to begin selling Doom a day early.

Shortly after the internal memo made the rounds online, GameStop published a list of action it's taken to reduce risks.

  • Instituting multiple social distancing practices in our stores, such as only allowing 10 customers in our stores at any given time
  • Following CDC recommended guidelines to adopt in-store line management practices that creates a 6-foot parameter between customers in checkout lines
  • Reducing our store hours of operation to 12-8 PM, which will be in place until Sunday, March 29th
  • Rolling out delivery @ door service to allow customers to pick up their purchases at the front door of our US store locations
  • Suspending temporarily our video game and consumer electronics trade-in practices until Sunday, March 29th
  • Postponing all gaming events and midnight launch activities until further notice
  • Disabling temporarily all interactive gaming stations in our stores
  • Encouraging customers to leverage our online ecommerce capabilities and direct deliveries to their homes from our warehouses or stores
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