As the United States continues to suffer historic levels of infection and death at the hands of the global COVID-19 pandemic, GameStop yesterday announced its intentions to reopen stores in Georgia and South Carolina; two states that will soon allow non-essential businesses to resume operations, despite the fact that the spread of the coronavirus continues unabated, and that state and local governments still lack the means to enact any meaningful testing or contact tracing initiatives.
“Approximately one-third of U.S. stores locations remain closed, with two-thirds of stores closed to customers but available for curbside pick-up,” GameStop said in an update. “The Company has begun the process of re-opening stores in Italy, Germany, Austria and the states of South Carolina and Georgia and is preparing for the potential to re-open in other operating countries and states in the coming weeks. All stores in Australia remain open for business with strong results continuing with approximately 24% comparable store sales for the nine weeks ended April 4, 2020.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp held a press conference Monday to announce that non-essential businesses across the state, including gyms, theaters, and restaurants, can get back to the business of human contact as early as this Friday, April 24. As part of the order, businesses will have to maintain temporary adherence to social distancing guidelines, which include screening employees for fever and enhancing sanitation efforts, though there are practical limits to how socially distant your barber can actually be. Kemp said that his order supersedes any local or city ordinances that attempt to impose stricter guidelines. Georgia currently tallies almost 20,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and has suffered 799 deaths due to the disease.
South Carolina, meanwhile, will allow non-essential businesses to reopen at 5 p.m. Eastern on Monday, April 27, under comparable guidelines. The state has recorded just over 4,600 cases of the virus, which have resulted in 135 deaths.
In announcing its intentions to resume operations in Georgia and South Carolina, GameStop is making a de facto concession that it only closed shop in the first place because it was legally required to, and not out of concern for the health or safety of its employees, who will once again be exposed to the virus when they return to work. And in a similar move to protect the company’s stock value (which saw a slight bump in after-market trading following the announcement), GameStop’s executive leadership will accept temporary reductions to their base salary. Likewise, cash compensation to its board of directors, which includes former Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé, will be reduced by 50 percent — again, temporarily.
GameStop CEO George Sherman, who makes a base salary of $1.1 million per year, will see his pay reduced by 50 percent, down to a paltry annual sum of $550,000, or the equivalent of $264.42 per hour. Chief Financial Officer Jim Bell’s annual base salary of $700,000 will be cut by 30 percent, down to $490,000 per year, with the rest of the C-suite experiencing similar cuts.
It’s worth noting that these reductions only apply to the executive leadership’s base salaries, and that other types of compensation (capital gains in the form of dividends, for example) are not effected. Further down the food chain, “certain other employees across the Company’s worldwide operating units” will see temporary pay reductions of 10 to 30 percent, though GameStop does not specify who this applies to. Similarly, “certain of the Company’s corporate support staff” will be offered the choice between a temporary furlough, or a temporary reduction in pay and hours.
The United States of America continues to lead the world in confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths by an astonishing margin. As of press time, the US reports 825,306 cases of the virus and more than 44,000 deaths as a result of its wildfire-like spread across the nation. Spain, the next closest country in terms of confirmed cases, reports 204,178 for comparison. Italy is the next closest country in terms of deaths, with 24,648.