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Retailers go to the window, hire more security, fear post-election violence

“Ferragamo was brought in, Prada brought in, Dolce & Gabbana brought up,” said Kathy Gohari, Vice President of the Rodeo Driving Committee. “Rodeo Drive is one of the most desirable roads in the world, which means we are one of the biggest targets. What we do not welcome is that people with bad intentions, come here to destroy property ”.

After a year marked by unrest and volatility, retailers across the country are taking sweeping measures ̵

1; and spending millions – to protect their stores in the election. The president has the ability to quickly cause controversy. Saks Fifth Avenue and CVS are opening store windows and adding security at some locations, while Neiman Marcus will close all stores at 5pm on Election Day. Others will shut down completely on Tuesday, or offer paid vacation time for staff to vote or volunteer at polls.

“The safety of our customers, associates and community as well as the protection of our physical assets is of paramount importance,” said Nicole Schoenberg, a spokeswoman for Saks Fifth Avenue.

The election is the latest campaign for retailers, which have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and a summer of civil unrest. The killing of George Floyd, a black man, held by police in Minneapolis on May 25, sparked protests across the country, some of which turned violent. Shops across the country were vandalized, causing some retailers like Target and Nordstrom to suddenly close locations and others open windows and increased security.

Retailers have suffered an estimated $ 1 billion in insured losses from property damage and theft this year, according to the Insurance Information Institute’s initial estimates, making this year’s rally turnaround. into “the most costly civil disorder in US history”.

President Trump on Tuesday morning pondered high-rise buildings in cities like New York, calling it “very sad” on Fox & Friends. “It’s a pity to see it,” he said. “Unfortunately. There is no reason for it. “

He argued that riots and plunder were caused by “wise men, anarchists and agitators”, and said without evidence that potential violence would be the result of “weak leadership. less “in” Democratic-run cities “such as Chicago, Portland and Baltimore.

Walmart last week removed all guns and ammunition from thousands of display stores, citing concerns about “civil unrest” after some properties were ransacked as riots broke out in Philadelphia. After the police shot Walter Wallace Jr., a married Black man said he was in a mental health crisis. The company later reversed its decision, saying “the incidents are still geographically isolated.”

Trade security firms and contractors say they have received round-the-clock calls from business owners worried about protests and riots.

“All the requirements are the same: Make everything up before Election Day,” a manager at the Commercial Glass Window Repair Company in Washington, DC, who said on condition of anonymity because he could not permission to speak on behalf of the company. “If you go into the city center, everything is ready-made, regardless of whether it’s a luxury store or not. It has never been like this before ”.

In Chicago, several of the stores along its famous Magnificent Mile have opened their doors in recent days. According to Adam Skaf, spokesman for the Magnificent Mile Association, the city has snow trucks, salt wagons and other “pre-set” vehicles ready to go as a barrier if most areas need to be closed. concentration. The group worked closely with the police to come up with a “long-term security strategy” in preparation for the election, he said.

Retailers say recent vandalism and looting has resulted in tens of millions of dollars in damage and rebuilding costs. Sneaker chain Foot Locker, for example, said it had incurred $ 18 million in costs due to “recent social unrest” during the summer.

According to Mike Clark, vice president of Creative Industries in Indianapolis, demand for windows that are bulletproof and anti-attack has increased since the summer, especially in small businesses and cannabis distribution stations around. country.

“It is a combination of responding to riot, as well as preparing the election results in advance,” he said. “Businesses are calling and saying, ‘Our window has been smashed. We want to upgrade to bulletproof materials. ”

In addition to materially protecting their stores, hundreds of national chain stores have pledged to give their employees paid leave to vote this year. Madewell and J. Crew will close all stores, corporate offices and distribution centers on Tuesday as part of their commitment to Time to Vote, a non-partisan alliance formed in 2018. More than 700 companies, including Macy’s, Ralph Lauren, REI and Dick’s Sporting Goods, signed this year.

Dan Schulman, president and CEO of PayPal, one of the three founders of Time to Vote, said in a press release: “The demand has never been greater for businesses to their employees. take time off to vote. “No American has to choose between earning a salary and voting.”

The National Retail Federation last week hosted an online seminar for 60 retail brands on conflict prevention and de-escalation, initially to help workers deal with aggressive customers who didn’t want to wear masks. . But the organizers decided to broaden their horizons to include election-related confrontations.

Stephanie Martz, the NRF’s chief administrative officer and general counsel, said: “As we got closer to the election, we all saw the same signs of uncertainty, insecurity and anxiety. “You have to stand firmly on your feet, ready, like you’re playing a sport, in response to whatever is going to happen.”

The trade consortium is encouraging retailers to keep close contact with local police departments, she said. Although many retailers have chosen to build store windows and fronts, she says it’s a personal financial calculation companies have to do.

“You don’t have to send the message that you are closed for business,” she said. “But on the other hand, you have to keep your employees safe, you have to keep your customers safe.”

Election uncertainty – and how and when it is decided – can have a lasting effect on consumer spending, which has started to rise again in recent months. But those benefits can be wiped out if the results of the election last for days or weeks. The retail industry has overcome difficulties this year, starting with the coronavirus pandemic, which caused thousands of stores across the country to shut down suddenly. More than a dozen major retailers have since filed for bankruptcy, and analysts predict around 25,000 stores will be permanently closed this year.

“A lot will depend on the phase of quantity – if this is a landslide, it will be different,” said Greg Portell, global lead partner in consumer practice at consulting firm Kearney. with us in long-term uncertainty, ”said Greg Portell, lead global consumer practice partner at consulting firm Kearney.

“Consumers like certainty in one way or another,” Portell said. “If they don’t feel safe, you will find them resting and hibernating at home, which is not good for the economy.”

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