COVID-19

J.C. Penney joins ranks of major retailers filing for bankruptcy

Jasmine Garsd May 18, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Retail watchers say J.C. Penney won't be the last company to see this kind of financial trouble during the pandemic. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
COVID-19

J.C. Penney joins ranks of major retailers filing for bankruptcy

Jasmine Garsd May 18, 2020
Retail watchers say J.C. Penney won't be the last company to see this kind of financial trouble during the pandemic. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Hardly anyone is out shopping because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and no one knows when business will go back to normal. On Friday, J.C. Penney became just the latest in a line of major retailers to declare bankruptcy.

Neiman Marcus and J. Crew have also declared bankruptcy. The pandemic has dealt a major blow to retail, but even when the economy was booming, these businesses struggled.

They had crushing debt, and too many brick-and-mortar stores at a time when people shop online. Experts say the lesson is if you can’t do well during good times, you’ll fall quickly during the bad ones.

“The pandemic didn’t put these companies out of business,” said Erik Gordon at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “These companies, they were going down the drain before the pandemic. So, you have to stay up to date. These are retailers that fell behind the times and are having trouble catching up.”

Gordon says we can expect more closures and bankruptcy filings. All eyes are on other industry giants, like Nordstrom, which has already permanently shuttered over a dozen locations.

That’s bad news for retail workers, tens of thousand of which have already been furloughed. More layoffs are expected.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

It’s still the question on everyone’s minds: What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The $600-a-week payments have ended, officially, as of July 31. For now, there is no additional federal pandemic unemployment assistance. House Democrats want to renew the $600 payments. Senate Republicans have proposed giving the unemployed 70% of their most recent salary by this October, when state unemployment offices have had time to reconfigure their computer systems to do those calculations. Until then, jobless workers would just get another $200. But, nothing has been agreed upon yet.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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