US specialist retailer, GameStop, has been ordered by state officials in Massachusetts to close its stores throughout the state.
While the retailer insists its an "essential business" as it prepares curbside pickups for customers and should remain open, state officials issued nuisance citations and ordered the chain to close on Tuesday, according to The Boston Globe (thanks, Polygon). Officials also visited stores on Wednesday to ensure the store had compiled.
"After instructing employees to wrap their hands in plastic bags and go back to work, GameStop shuts down Mass. stores," reads The Globe's headline.
Though many retailers abided with instructions to close, GameStop defended its decision to remain open by stating it sold "products and devices that are important to facilitate remote work, distance learning, and virtual connectivity", and, according to Polygon, told its employees to "wear gloves or even tape plastic bags over their hands, open the front door only slightly while keeping its glass between them and the customer, and handing over whatever they had ordered through the crack".
At the time of writing, GameStop has not commented on what it intends to do with the other 4,000 stores it has ope in America, or, indeed, across the world.
A number of specialist video game retailers came into heavy criticism recently for choosing to keep their stores open despite social distancing rules recommended by governments across the world. Whilst GameStop eventually bowed to pressure and shuttered some stores and moved to "contactless" pick-ups, UK retailer Game was not amongst the firms that had voluntarily halted operations following the government's announcement that all bars and restaurants would be closed. Many game stores, including Argos, Currys, CEX, and Smyths, elected to remain open across the UK.
Game did eventually announce it would be closing its Belong arenas in light of the government's social distancing guidelines, but initially insisted it would keep its retail stores open – a deeply concerning prospect for many of its frontline staff.
GameStop recently confirmed it's closing at least 320 stores over the next 12 months. The company has already closed 321 stores as part of restructuring efforts in the financial year ending February 2020, and now a similar number of its 5,500 stores are expected to shut by the end of this financial year, too.
The closures come in spite of the company reporting a net income of $21 million (£16.8 million) at the end of the last financial year, and with the company insisting that "these store closures are a very specific and proactive part of our de-densification plan and they are not related to recent business trends" related to the coronavirus pandemic.
At the time of writing, it's unclear which territories will be impacted, but the company has stores in 14 different countries, including Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, and Sweden.