AT&T Carrier Closes Retail Stores amid COVID-19 Outbreak

By Telecom Tech Outlook | Monday, June 15, 2020

AT&T said it would close more than 40 percent of its company-owned retail stores across the country, with those remaining open operating on adjusted hours and all stores closing on Sundays

FREMONT, CA: AT&T said it is shutting doors to some company-owned retail stores across the U.S. in response to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. The closures will continue as it focuses resources on select stores to meet the immediate service needs of customers, including first responders and healthcare providers. The carrier said it would also ensure that all retail employees continue to get paid regardless of whether their store is slated to close or not.

T-Mobile earlier this week said it would shut 80 percent of company-owned stores, and Sprint announced it would temporarily close 71 percent of Sprint retail stores. Verizon has said it will close some corporate retail stores, and reduce hours at those that remain open, with all shut on Sundays until April 12.

The percentages aren’t exactly clear-cut though, as AT&T, like most other carriers, noted closures apply to company-owned retail locations. Many of the carriers’ branded retail stores are privately owned and operated by independent dealers, so it’s not immediately clear how many of those will remain open.

Data from Wave7 Research’s Door Report shows that AT&T had more than 2,000 company-owned postpaid stores, but those were significantly outnumbered by the amount of AT&T dealer-operated retail stores.

Overall, Wave7 Research estimates that 14,400 of the total 21,800 postpaid carrier stores remained open as of Tuesday, March 17, or about one-third had closed.

Verizon said it was reducing the number of employees working shifts in retail locations by 50 percent, and still paying employees for any missed shifts. While it didn’t put a percentage on store closures, Jeff Moore, principal at Wave7, said based on checks of about 100 Verizon retail stores across four metro markets, he estimates the carrier has temporarily closed roughly 10 percent of its company-owned stores.

Only about 21 percent of Verizon-branded retail stores are company-owned, and Wave7 did not observe any store closures or reduced hours at the carrier’s dealer stores.

At T-Mobile, dealers account for about 60 percent of the carrier’s branded retail stores, and while its announcement only applied to company-owned stores, it appears dealers are closing doors in specific markets as well.

In addition to temporarily closing stores and reducing hours, major carriers and communication providers have made commitments to help Americans maintain service and connectivity, including removing data caps, providing additional hotspot data, and not terminating service if customers are unable to pay their bills because of circumstances related to the novel coronavirus.

The store closures come as companies and communities work to implement social distancing guidance that top U.S. leaders and health officials say is needed to slow the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic that is making its way through the country. New federal recommendations include all Americans work and stay at home whenever possible and avoid social gatherings of groups of more than ten people, among others.

Numerous state and local governments have taken actions such as closing schools, banning large public gatherings, restricting restaurants to take-out or delivery, and even issuing shelter-in-place orders in some major cities as confirmed novel coronavirus cases grow.

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