Though stores will be closed to customers, GameStop will process orders on a digital only basis, moving to curbside pick-up at stores and delivery.
“This is an unprecedented time and each day brings new information about the COVID-19 pandemic. Our priority has been and continues to be on the well-being of our employees, customers and business partners. We have been steadfast in our adherence to CDC-guided safety and local government orders for retailers in each of our communities,” George Sherman, GameStop’s Chief Executive Officer, said in a statement.
Last week, GameStop had resisted calls to close all of its stores, saying it was an “essential” business because it offers mice and keyboards that could help people work from home. GameStop told CNN Business in a statement that “we are one of many providers of these products that are remaining open at this time.” But it didn’t comment on why it must remain open if other stores are also providing those items.
Several current employees told CNN Business that only select shops carry the kind of equipment that can help people work from home. GameStop primarily carries higher-end PC gaming accessories, not the more affordable and simpler tools that are most suitable for office work.
“That’s absolutely ridiculous. If someone’s trying to work from home, they don’t want the $85 Razer keyboard we have or the $60 Razer mouse. Some cheap $20 Microsoft something is going to get them by just fine,” said Dustin Carson, 31, a game adviser at a GameStop in Athens, Georgia. “They can get that at Walmart. They can get that at any of these other stores that also have groceries and are arguably much more essential to being open right now.”
Police went to the store Friday afternoon to order that it shut down. They showed GameStop employees an 11-page ordinance that included a list of essential businesses, which CNN Business viewed. GameStop was not listed as one of them. The store closed on Friday at around 4 pm ET and it is unclear if it will reopen Saturday. Athens’ police department did not return a request for comment.
“Honestly, I’m relieved,” said Carson, “No one needs to get sick or die over video games. They’re not essential items.”
As states and districts adopt new rules to counter COVID-19, GameStop said it would shift its approach: “We are complying with all state, county, city and local ordinances and we will continue to adjust to any future developments.”
“I never considered myself someone essential to a pandemic then, and I don’t now,” a GameStop shift manager in Illinois, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, told CNN Business.
The Illinois employee said their store made $4,000 in net sales on Sunday and Monday combined and “that is definitely out of the norm for this time of the year.”
“I think I’ve cried every day since Monday… I’m trying not to cry in front of my staff,” said a longtime current GameStop store leader in New Jersey, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of being fired. “I feel very much like a pawn. It doesn’t matter what the staff on the ground does. They’re just expendable.”
Employees had called for GameStop to shut its stores, even though it will hurt them financially.
One assistant store leader in California said “I had asked my manager if we should call local law enforcement to try to enforce the closure… [the request] died in the chain of command.” He later added that his store has now closed as of Friday and that he does not expect to be paid beyond using up his vacation days.
Matthew, who asked to be identified by first name only, a longtime GameStop employee, worked in a New Jersey mall store he said recently closed because the governor mandated mall closures.
While most employees expressed they believe GameStop should close its stores during the pandemic, one keyholder in Virginia said, “I do believe that they should stay open. With unemployment buckling under the weight of the layoffs I can’t see a way to earn income at this moment in time… I need this job.”