Boston and state authorities in Massachusetts have taken action to force GameStop stores to close their doors during the coronavirus lockdown, after the game retailer deemed itself to be an “essential” business that could stay open despite government directives.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker had ordered non-essential businesses to close on March 24, but GameStop had continued to operate despite this. The Boston Globe reported at the end of last week that the GameStop in Dorchester had been ordered to close last Tuesday, but found that it was still open the following day. Since then, all GameStop stores in Massachusetts have now closed.
As good as video games are for passing the time during the coronavirus pandemic, I don’t think we can really say that game retailers like GameStop, Game, Cex and others count as “essential” businesses.
GameStop had insisted that it provides essential services in mid-March, stating that it sells “products and devices that are important to facilitate remote work, distance learning, and virtual connectivity.” After receiving criticism, they relented and shifted to online only operations alongside offering “contactless” curb-side pickups.
However, the company has received further criticism for not implementing policies or providing the necessary safety equipment to its employees. According to a memo reported on by The Globe, staff were told to wear gloves or “lightly (you want to be able to get it off easily) tape a GameStop plastic bag over your hand and arm. Do not open the door all the way — keep the glass between you and the guest’s face — just reach out your arm.”
Sure, that’ll do it…
The retailer was already struggling to keep its head above water even before the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the US. While they have 5,500 stores across the country and posted a net income of $21 million last financial year, the shift to digital game purchases are having an increasing impact on their operations. They closed 321 stores through the last financial year and expect to close another 320 over the next 12 months, though this could obviously rise as they suffer from reduced sales through the lockdown.