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Bed Bath & Beyond, under pressure from employees, will temporarily close more than half its stores

Coronavirus

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(CNN) — Bed Bath and Beyond, under fire from its workers as one of the few retailers planning to stay open amid the coronavirus crisis, said late Thursday it will temporarily close more than half its stores.

The company will immediately close around 800 Bed Bath & Beyond stores until April 3. It will continue to pay its employees during that stretch.

Another 700 of its stores will continue to operate under shortened hours, including buybuy BABY, Harmon Face Value, and Bed Bath & Beyond stores that have health and personal care departments.

Bed Bath & Beyond has struggled to remain competitive against Amazon, Target and other retailers in recent years, posting a string of weak sales, including during last year’s holiday season.

“In this time of great uncertainty, our first priority is the welfare of our customers and associates. We are therefore taking this decisive action to help keep our communities safe, while continuing to serve our loyal customers,” CEO Mark Tritton said in a statement.

The company was slow to announce closures, even as department store and home goods’ rivals like Macy’s, Nordstrom, JCPenney and others shut their doors. TJX, the parent company of TJMaxx and Marshalls, announced earlier on Thursday that it will close for two weeks. Kohl’s also plans to close stores Thursday.

While grocery stores, big box chains, wholesale clubs and pharmacies remain open, there is confusion around which stores should be considered “non-essential” and close. Home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s remain open. Best Buy is limiting the number of customers in stores to 15 at a time.

The National Retail Federation sent a letter to President Trump Thursday requesting clarification on which stores can remain open. “There remains a need for clear national guidance to resolve questions caused by a number of conflicting state and local orders,” the trade group said.

Leonard Marcus, co-director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health, said earlier Thursday that keeping Bed Bath & Beyond and other non-essential stores open “does raise the risks to employees and customers. We are at a dangerous point in the spread of the coronavirus.”

Bed Bath & Beyond workers had previously voiced frustration at the company’s decision to keep stores open earlier this week

“We have no idea what is going on, we feel abandoned, and all our district and regional support are working from home,” said one employee in Connecticut who, like others, spoke under the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation. “Associates are scared, frustrated, and have lost faith in the company to do the right thing and support us.”

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