GameStop claims it is ‘essential retail’ to remain open amid coronavirus shutdowns

GameStop is instructing its retail employees to keep stores open, even in the face of local authorities who would seek to shut them down over coronavirus-related lockdowns.

“GameStop is working diligently during this unprecedented time to provide our customers and associates with the safest environment possible,” the company said in a statement posted to its website on Thursday. “We are implementing changes to our retail operations so that we may continue to provide essential products to our customers that allows them to stay connected, and provide products that allows business and consumers to work remotely.”

GameStop says it is “instituting multiple social distancing practices” in its stores by allowing 10 people in at a time; reducing its store hours; rolling out a delivery-at-door policy so customers can pick up orders outside the retail location; suspending trade-ins until March 29th; postponing all events and midnight launches; and disabling all in-store game stations.

Instead of instructing its retail employees to stay home, GameStop also says it is “providing all our stores with the necessary supply of disinfectant materials and hand sanitizer” and only allowing employees to remain home “if they are sick and are experiencing any flu-like symptoms.”

In a memo first obtained by Kotakuearlier today, employees were told that “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.”

Essential government services include transit, police, fire, health care services, grocery markets, pharmacies, banks, and gas stations.

The memo, which acknowledges that local authorities have attempted to enforce closure, adds that “Store Managers are approved to provide the document [to contact corporate] to law enforcement as needed.” GameStop did not respond to a request for comment by time of publish. The Verge has confirmed that this includes San Francisco, which became the first US city to enact a shelter-in-place order and mandate the closing of all nonessential businesses earlier this week.

GameStop says its business is “essential” and is requiring retail employees to stay

A call placed by The Verge to a local GameStop store in the city confirmed that the retailer would remain open in the coming days, although on a slightly adjusted schedule that has the store opening later in the day at 12PM local time and staying open until 6PM.

The Verge’s sister site Polygonpreviously reported that many GameStop employees feel unsupported and unsafe in this difficult time. “I had a region call and a district call today. Both showed very little care for the employees,” a GameStop manager told Polygon. “The focus is on sales.” The company has suspended many of its midnight launches, yet it has insisted on stores remaining open throughout state-mandated closures. Employees have complained that they have neither received promised cleaning supplies, nor do they have the staff to properly sanitize their stores.

In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed has enforced more drastic measures to keep COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, from spreading. On March 16th, the city announced a public health order that requires all residents to remain inside “with the only exception being for essential needs.” The order will remain effective until April 7th or until it’s extended at a later date.

Officials in states like New York have also been eyeing a similar order. In the past few days, cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle, have closed bars and restaurants to the general public and are operating only through take-out or delivery.

Update March 19th, 5:47PM ET: Added official statement from GameStop and the company’s in-store guidelines in response to the coronavirus.

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