NRF: Coronavirus Crisis Needs Federal ‘Essential Retail’ Definition

The National Retail Federation has sent a letter to President Donald Trump and various administration officials, as well as state retail associations, urging the federal government to produce national guidance for state and local governments seeking to clarify “essential retail businesses and services” for their communities.

Over the signature of NRF president Matthew Shay, the letter noted that different localities have defined essential retail in various ways, in some cases endangering the supply of products such as pet food with their designations as well as the operation of critical distribution centers and transporation logistics companies.

The letter continues:

“While we are working with municipal and state officials on the examples above, we ask the administration to clarify that CDC instructions to limit gatherings to less than 50 people should be relaxed or exempted for large format grocery stores, big box retail and wholesale clubs. Facilities with significant square footage can adequately accommodate more than 50 shoppers while effectively managing social distancing practices among customers and employees.

When state and local governments enforce 50-person limits— often through law enforcement— it creates long lines outside stores, further alarming consumers that groceries and other supplies may be in limited quantity. Most often that is not the case. Further, having hundreds of customers lined up outdoors defeats the mass-gathering guidance.

Additionally, we request that your administration issue guidance to clarify “essential retail businesses” at a national level. The time has come to strike the right balance and we recommend these examples as a model for any state or local government issuing similar directives:

Grocery stores, convenience stores and other establishments engaged in the retail sale or provision of food, pet supply, big box stores, wholesale clubs, and any other retailer of household consumer products, such as cleaning and personal care products. This includes stores that sell groceries and other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences; local, regional and national transportation and delivery services, including but not limited to businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences and mailing and shipping services; facilities supporting interstate delivery of goods, distribution centers, warehouse facilities and trucking and highway rest stops; pharmacy and health care services; convenience stores; agricultural and farm retail stores, often the only place to purchase livestock feed, and one of the few places first responders can obtain critical supplies; gas stations and auto supply stores, auto repair and related facilities; hardware and home improvement stores; restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, if operating under rules for social distancing; and retailers that supply other essential businesses and people working from home with the support or supplies necessary to operate, for example, electronics, telecommunication and mobile technology.

Finally, we respectfully request that your administration remain open to adding more categories to the specified “essential retail businesses” list as conditions continue to change. We will be sharing this suggestion with state and local governments through our state retail association partners.