Hobby Lobby announced that it was closing all of its stores on Friday due to the coronavirus pandemic, but in the process the company still insisted that its services are "essential." The craft supplies retail chain has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks for keeping its doors open during the global health crisis, while so many other businesses have closed to mitigate the spread of the virus. Hobby Lobby has followed suit, but it is not admitting fault.
Hobby Lobby posted an official announcement saying that all of its stores are temporarily closed, beginning on Friday night. The company acknowledged that this will help "mitigate the devastating health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 virus," however, it also claimed that it provides "essential products." As evidence, it pointed out the CDC's new recommendation that people where cloth face coverings in public, saying that its supplies could be used to make tight-fitting face masks.
"We know our customers relied on us to provide essential products, including materials to make personal protective equipment, such as face masks, educational supplies for the countless parents who are now educating their children from home, and the thousands of small arts and crafts businesses who rely on us for supplies to make their products," the company's announcement read.
Hobby Lobby also pointed out some of the steps it has already taken to try and mitigate the spread of the virus, such as enhanced cleaning of stores. However, this contradicts statements made by employees last week in a report by Business Insider. Many said that their stores were too under-staffed to follow through on the recommended cleaning schedules meant to prevent the spread of the virus.
The main message of Hobby Lobby's message, however, was that "nearly all store employees" would now be furloughed. This followed a string of layoffs from the company. The announcement advised employees on how to "take full advantage of the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and Recovery Rebates provided to eligible employees by the federal government."
To that end, the company is "ending emergency leave pay and suspending use of Company provided paid time off benefits." It promises to "maintain medical, dental, life and long-term disability benefits for employees while furloughed through at least May 1, 2020." It is unclear what will happen if social distancing extends beyond that point, as many experts predict.
"We are prepared to reopen our stores in a responsible way when the current situation improves, and look forward to welcoming our valued customers back to our stores," Hobby Lobby concluded.
Visit the CDC's website for the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic.