Business Briefs – March 31, 2020

Macy’s to Furlough Majority Of Its 125,000 Workers

NEW YORK (AP) — Macy’s says it will temporarily stop paying tens of thousands of employees who were thrown out of work when the chain closed its stores in response to collapsing sales during the pandemic.

The majority of its 125,000 employees, including stock people and sales clerks, will still collect health benefits, but the company said that it is transitioning to an “absolute minimum workforce” needed to maintain basic operations. Macy’s has lost the bulk of its sales due to the temporarily closing of all 500 of its stores starting March 18.

The move is perhaps the most dramatic sign that even big name retailers are seeing their business evaporate and that the $2 trillion rescue package passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last week may have come too late for some.

Nordstrom said last week it was furloughing a portion of its corporate staff. And shoe company Designer Brands Inc., which operates DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse, furloughed 80% of its workers, effective this past weekend.

Analysts expect more furloughs to come as retailers scramble to pay their employees from fast-dwindling cash reserves. Labor is the single biggest monthly fixed cost for retailers, according to investment research firm Cowen & Co.

The furlough of workers will have negative consequences for an economy in which the retail industry supports one out of four workers.

More than 190,000 stores, including J.C. Penney and Neiman Marcus, have temporarily closed, accounting for nearly 50% of the U.S. retail square footage.


New Trump Mileage Standards To Gut Obama Climate Effort

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is expected to relax ambitious Obama-era vehicle mileage standards and raise the ceiling on damaging fossil fuel emissions for years to come, gutting one of the United States’ single-biggest efforts against climate change.

The Trump administration is expected to release a final rule Tuesday on mileage standards through 2026, watering down a tough Obama mileage standard that would have encouraged automakers globally to ramp up production of electric vehicles and more fuel-efficient gasoline vehicles.


Conditions for Companies That Get Virus Aid: Room for Abuse?

WASHINGTON (AP) — A $500 billion federal aid package for companies and governments hurt by the coronavirus includes rules aimed at ensuring that the taxpayer money is used in ways that would help sustain the economy. But questions are being raised about whether those guardrails will prevent the kinds of abuses that have marked some corporate bailouts of the past.

In return for the emergency loans, which could be spun by the Federal Reserve into up to $4.5 trillion, companies will face temporary limits on what they can pay executives. They’ll also need to keep their workforces stable or at least not lay off more than 10% for several months. And they’ll face restrictions on stock buybacks and dividend increases.

Yet loopholes may lurk in the legislation.

“On paper, it looks like we learned the lessons,” said James Angel, an associate professor of finance at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “But the devil is in the details. … There’s a lot of room around the edges.”


Time to ‘Revenge Shop’: China’s Virus Hot Spot Reopens

WUHAN, China (AP) — The city at the center of China’s virus outbreak was reopening for business Monday after authorities lifted more of the controls that locked downs tens of millions of people for two months. “I want to revenge shop,” one excited customer declared as she traversed one of Wuhan’s major shopping streets,

Customers were still scarce, though, as those who did venture out were greeted by shop employees who wore masks and carried signs that told them to “keep a safe distance.”

Among them was this teacher, who was visiting her family when most access to the city of 11 million was suspended Jan. 23 to stem the coronavirus spread.

“I’m so excited, I want to cry,” said the woman, who gave only her English name Kat as she eyed the wares in the Chuhe Hanjie pedestrian mall.


Rent Strike Idea Gaining Steam During Coronavirus Crisis

  1. LOUIS (AP) — With millions of people suddenly out of work and rent due at the first of the month, some tenants are vowing to go on a rent strike until the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and St. Louis are among many cities that have temporarily banned evictions, but advocates for the strike are demanding that rent payments be waived, not delayed, for those in need during the crisis. The rent strike idea has taken root in parts of North America and as far away as London.

White sheets are being hung in apartment windows to show solidarity with the movement that is gaining steam on Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites. Fliers urging people to participate are being posted in several cities, including bus stops in St. Louis, where 27-year-old Kyle Kofron still has his job at an ice cream factory, but his three roommates have suddenly found themselves unemployed. Their property manager so far hasn’t agreed to a payment plan, Kofron said.