- Some governments are allowing nonessential businesses like clothing stores and florists to reopen for retail sales as "dark" stores.
- "Dark" stores aren't open to the public. They provide products only through drive-thrus, curbside pickup, or delivery.
- Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves on Friday said easing restrictions on "nonessential" businesses could reduce crowding in big-box stores like Walmart.
- "If we can allow Mississippi's small businesses to do sales in a safe way we can get some of those people out of the Walmart," Reeves said. "We can spread out more. We can actually make more people more safe."
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As US officials weigh lifting social distancing measures, some governments are easing restrictions by allowing nonessential businesses to reopen as "dark" stores that provide service only through drive-thrus, curbside pickup, or delivery.
This means florists, clothing stores, furniture outlets, and other nonessential businesses can reopen as long as they don't allow customers inside their stores. Shoppers must instead order items online for curbside pickup or delivery.
Texas and Mississippi are among the states that are allowing nonessential businesses to resume operations under a "dark" store format.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves on Friday amended a statewide shelter-in-place order to allow retail sales by nonessential businesses limited to drive-thru, curbside, and/or delivery.
He said lifting the restrictions on nonessential sales could help ease some economic pain for small businesses and reduce crowding in big-box stores like Walmart.
"Everyone is crowding big-box retailers," Reeves said in a press conference. "I wish this wasn't true, but we know not everyone is just buying groceries or medical supplies. That's just a reality.
"If we can allow Mississippi's small businesses to do sales in a safe way we can get some of those people out of the Walmart," he continued. "We can spread out more. We can actually make more people more safe."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday issued an order similar to Mississippi's. Abbott's order establishes a temporary "Retail-To-Go" model that will allow nonessential retail stores to reopen beginning April 24, as long they deliver items to customer's cars, homes, or other locations to minimize contact.
"Dark" stores and restaurants were popping up across the US long before the coronavirus pandemic to help manage growing demand for online orders. Within the restaurant industry, the concept is more commonly referred to as "ghost kitchens."
Some analysts and retail experts are predicting that the pandemic will permanently shift more spending online. This could drive up demand for even more "dark" stores as pandemic concerns persist.
If you are an owner of or employee at a nonessential business that is reopening as a "dark" store, email this author at firstname.lastname@example.org.