Editor’s Note: The following piece was written by 21 CEOs of major US retailers. The opinions expressed in this commentary are their own.
As our country grapples with the fear and hardship that Covid-19 continues to create, we have seen countless examples of Americans working diligently to help ensure that their families, friends and communities remain safe and secure. Retailers are doing everything we can to promote a safe re-opening of the economy so that we can put millions of people back to work while actively fighting the spread of Covid-19. Our employees, many of whom work through the night to ensure stores are thoroughly cleaned and stocked, have been vital to providing the groceries, goods and services American families have relied on throughout this pandemic.
Those working in retail are our family members, friends and neighbors in both rural and urban communities. Unfortunately, many of these workers have recently endured verbal threats, harassment, and in some cases, physical violence for attempting to promote a safer environment for themselves and customers. More specifically, many have been subjected to these senseless attacks simply because they requested a customer wear a mask upon entry.
Promoting safe and responsible work environments for businesses and customers should not be a matter of politics. It is a matter of safety, decency and respect for all. Even though wearing a mask materially reduces the spread of Covid-19, some states have yet to mandate face coverings be worn. This is simply irresponsible and runs counter to basic principles of public well-being.
Without government leadership, a small, but meaningful, segment of customers will continue to disregard private-sector warnings, placing themselves and others in harm’s way by shopping without a mask or face covering.
We thank those governors that have led on this issue, putting safety first and requiring individuals to wear a mask when shopping. Respectfully, we request all governors to prioritize the health and safety of our workers and the communities we serve by requiring patrons to wear a mask when visiting our stores. This simple requirement, along with the social distancing measures and sanitization protocols we have implemented in stores, is the best way to minimize risk and dramatically reduce the spread of Covid-19.
In mandating the use of masks in public settings, the role of enforcement should not fall upon our employees, team members and associates. Requiring retail employees to serve as de facto law enforcement could lead to an unsafe environment for our employees and customers. All retailers will do our part to clearly communicate such policies to our employees and the public, but it must be the role of government to properly enforce this important safety initiative, and it must be the responsibility of every individual to follow the law.
Most of us in retail require our employees to wear a mask when working. We do it because it’s the right thing to do: keeping our colleagues, our customers and our communities safe. To our customers who do the same, we say thank you. To those who do not, we ask that you consider not just your own safety, but the well-being of our employees and your fellow customers when entering our stores. Finally, to the public officials in those states where face coverings are not currently required in a retail setting, please issue the appropriate order or pass the necessary legislation immediately. And use your platform to remind every citizen in your state to respect the front-line workers who are showing up to work every day to ensure our families are safe and secure with all they need.
As many have said before us, this is a time for us all to rally around a common cause. We are proud of the role retailers play in that effort but are increasingly concerned that a small minority is undermining our collective ability to defeat Covid-19, putting the lives and livelihoods of all Americans at continued risk. On behalf of the millions of workers in retail, and every American family counting on us to stay open, we urge the nation’s governors to act decisively.
Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy
Gary Philbin, president and CEO of Dollar Tree
Mary Dillon, CEO of Ulta Beauty
Sonia Syngal, CEO of Gap, Inc.
Erik Nordstrom, CEO of Nordstrom
Anthony Hucker, president and CEO of Southeastern Grocers
Johannes Fieber, CEO of Lidl US
Dick Johnson, chairman, president and CEO of Foot Locker
George Sherman, CEO of GameStop
Dinesh Lathi, president and CEO of Tailored Brands
Laura Karet, CEO of Giant Eagle
Jill Soltau, CEO of JCPenney
Bill Rhodes, chairman, president and CEO of AutoZone
Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co.
Gary Muto, CEO of Ascena Retail
Wade Miquelon, president and CEO of JoAnn Stores
Sharon Leite, CEO of Vitamin Shoppe
Javier Quinones, CEO of IKEA US
Ron Coughlin, CEO of Petco
JK Symancyk, president and CEO of PetSmart
Stephen Smith, president and CEO of L.L.Bean