In response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, several companies in the retail industry are taking swift action to implement cost-cutting initiatives. With store closures and disruptions continuing, AEO, Caleres, Lululemon, and other companies are making significant efforts to preserve financial liquidity and support their employees.

AEO, also known as American Eagle Outfitters, has decided to furlough store, field, and corporate associates starting from April 5. On top of this, the company has also delayed merit increases for employees and imposed a hiring freeze. However, despite these tough measures, AEO is committed to standing by its affected employees. The company will continue to provide benefits and will fund 100% of health premiums for eligible employees at least until April 2020. In a commendable move, AEO has also established a program through its AEO Foundation to provide assistance to employees facing economic distress due to being diagnosed with Covid-19.

Caleres, a prominent footwear and accessories group, has also made tough decisions to navigate this challenging time. The company has announced furloughs and layoffs across its retail stores, distribution centers, and corporate facilities. Not only that, but Caleres has implemented a salary reduction across all levels of its remaining workforce, including its executive leadership team and board of directors. To further cut costs and weather the storm, Caleres is taking a range of measures such as reducing inventory and receipts, extending credit terms, deferring or canceling capital projects, postponing marketing operations, and re-evaluating its promotional activities. Additionally, the company has joined its industry peers in manufacturing surgical masks at its factory in Port Washington, Wisconsin, to support healthcare workers.

Ohio-based fashion retailer Express is also feeling the impact of the pandemic and has consequently furloughed most of its store employees, along with several corporate associates. The company has suspended merit pay increases for the fiscal year 2020 and implemented a hiring freeze during this critical period. Express is focused on implementing various cost-cutting measures that aim to reduce expenses, capital expenditures, and inventory receipts.

Despite the closure of its stores in several countries, Lululemon, the popular Canadian athleticwear company, has made a commitment to continue pay protection for its employees through June 1. However, in an effort to contribute to the financial stability of the company, the senior management team has agreed to take a 20% salary reduction for the next three months, while board members have waived their cash retainer. Lululemon is diligently re-evaluating its expense structure, capital investments, and store projects, and has temporarily suspended its share repurchase program.

Ross Stores, the parent company of Ross Dress for Less, has made the decision to temporarily furlough the majority of its employees working in stores and distribution centers. Notably, the company’s CEO and chairman of the board will not receive any salary, and the senior executive team will face substantial salary cuts. In a show of solidarity, board members have also willingly waived their cash retainer.

Ulta Beauty, an Illinois-based cosmetics retailer, has taken various steps to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on its operations. The company has suspended new hires and deferred merit increases for both corporate and store associates. Moreover, Ulta is aligning its inventory receipts with current sales trends and prioritizing expense payment obligations. In an effort to adapt to the changing landscape, the company has slowed down its international expansion plans and expects to have a fully integrated omnichannel presence by 2021. Additionally, Ulta has adjusted its schedule for store openings, relocations, and remodels as part of its proactive approach. The company has also suspended its stock repurchase program.

Zumiez, a retailer based in Washington, is also taking significant measures to navigate the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The company has suspended new hires and has unfortunately had to lay off most of its part-time staff. Bonuses for fiscal 2020 have been eliminated, and most merit raises have been delayed. Zumiez has also made the decision to pause its share repurchase program, extend payment terms for vendor invoices, and cut costs by delaying or canceling select projects, reducing spending on non-essential items, and decreasing planned inventory receipts. Negotiations with landlords are underway as the company seeks relief and it has suspended rent payments for an unspecified period.

These companies are demonstrating a proactive approach in navigating through the challenging times brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. By implementing necessary cost-cutting measures, they aim to preserve their financial stability while also providing support for their employees. It is important to acknowledge the efforts they are making to stay afloat during these uncertain times.

Useful links:
1. [CDC: Covid-19 Information](https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html)
2. NRF: Coronavirus Resources for Retailers