First, our thoughts and hearts go out to those people around the world mentally or physically impacted by COVID-19. We are monitoring the rapidly changing situation and working with local and federal health and government officials on best steps forward. We recognize that this terrible pandemic, and our responses to it, will have far-reaching impacts on business, employment, and all of our daily lives.
We believe the best thing we can do for all of our people is make informed decisions based on facts as we do our part to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. This is uncharted territory for us all. The decision has been made to extend the temporary closure of all retail store locations across the U.S. and Canada. The closures are now expected to extend beyond the initial March 27, 2020 estimate. The company will continue to monitor guidance from government and health officials to determine when to re-open stores. In the meantime, we welcome our customers to visit us on ae.com where they can shop our strong digital channel.
At AEO, we value our people above all else. Any associate that is ill or has symptoms is able to take time off, and we are doing all that we can to remove financial barriers for all of our people so that they can receive diagnostic testing or medical care when needed. We have also taken the following immediate steps for our teams and communities:
- We have initiated an associate response plan to ensure all AEO store associates receive compensation for scheduled work time.
- In our distribution centers, we have maximized cleaning measures to ensure safe product shipping. In addition, we have staggered shifts and breaks to reduce the amount of associates spending time together in close proximity, increased the distance between workstations, and implemented additional safety measures.
- Our corporate associates are working remotely if they are able to do so, and meeting only in small groups. We are using technology to help keep us connected and we are still meeting and collaborating digitally.
- Through the AEO Foundation, we have provided support to impacted regions through Good360 and have established a COVID-19 relief fund to help associates who may be impacted by this health crisis.
As we continue to assess the rapidly evolving situation, we will keep you informed of any changes to our operations. When we do re-open we will make sure we do so with our people in mind; we have sought expert medical guidance, purchased the best available cleaning and preventative medical supplies, and implemented appropriate protocols so that no matter when or where our people live and shop, we can help ensure they do so safely. Until then, please stay connected through our social channels — we would love to hear from you.
Although I recognize the days ahead will be challenging, we will remain true to the very heart of our purpose—optimism. Let’s stay connected and strong together.
Executive Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer