GameStop shows it’s not so essential after all, moves to digital-only orders

GameStop has moved to digital-only ordering after receiving intense scrutiny over its initial reaction to concerns over COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus. GameStop initially told employees to refuse to close down stores despite statewide orders throughout the U.S. forcing nonessential businesses to do so.

GameStop announced this weekend that all of its U.S. storefronts will close, and it’s moving orders online. The company is offering curbside pickup in addition to its regular online delivery, but gamers must make purchases through the retailer’s website or mobile app.

“This is an unprecedented time and each day brings new information about the COVID-19 pandemic,” GameStop CEO George Sherman said in a statement. “Our priority has been and continues to be on the well-being of our employees, customers, and business partners.

Sherman added that GameStop has adhered to “[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]-guided safety and local government orders for retailers in each of our communities.” But many have pointed out that the retailer specifically tried to skirt instructions to close all nonessential businesses. GameStop sent an internal memo, revealed by Kotaku, to managers advising them to keep stores open despite any orders to close down nonessential businesses and to tell police officers to contact its corporate headquarters. GameStop claimed it is an essential retailer because it sells products that can be used to work from home. Those products are still, presumably, being sold online and eligible for pick up.

In a memo to staff today obtained by Kotaku, GameStop said: “Due to the products we carry that enable and enhance our customers’ experience in working from home, we believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time" (!!!!)

— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) March 19, 2020

After the memo leaked, the company then announced publicly on Twitter that it would cut hours, postpone all planned event,s and suspend used trade-ins until March 29. The closure also took effect Sunday, March 22, after the release of two notable games, Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

We are working diligently during this unprecedented time to provide our customers & associates with the safest environment possible. Please see below for details on new changes we are enacting & click here for our full statement: https://t.co/qP9jDQUmjs pic.twitter.com/d99kxviz7Q

— GameStop (@GameStop) March 19, 2020

When asked for additional comment, GameStop provided a statement reiterating the information in its press release.

“To help GameStop customers continue to adjust to their new normal of increased time at home for work, learning and play, we are providing access to the products and equipment they need through our stores that remain in operation, and to further social distancing, we, like many others that sell these products, have moved to only curbside pickup and online at GameStop.com and on the GameStop app for customers to have their products shipped directly to their homes,” GameStop told Digital Trends in an email.

Earlier this month, GameStop made some changes short of store closures in light of COVID-19 concerns by selling Doom Eternal a day early to avoid overcrowding due to the game sharing a release date with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The company also canceled the usual midnight releases that typically bring in many fans all at once.

Since the company will employ fewer employees than normal, GameStop said it will pay employees who are laid off for an additional two weeks based on their pay over the past 10 weeks. It will also reimburse former employees for one month of benefit contributions.

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