This story was updated Monday, March 23, 2020, at 10:44 p.m. with more information.
Chattanooga's shopping malls, which operated only a few dozen stores Monday, shut down at 7 p.m. Monday night in response to Mayor Andy Berke's executive order to close all non-essential businesses to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
On Monday at Hamilton Place Mall, fewer than a dozen stores, and only one of the nine food outlets in the mall food court, were open. Most of the stores at Hamilton Place, including the newly opened Dave & Buster's and Dick's Sporting Goods, were closed to the public. However, Dick's and Belk's were selling products for pickup outside of their stores.
CBL Properties and Associates, which operates Hamilton Place and Northgate malls, said the shopping centers were shut down Monday night even though the mayor's directive did not mandate such closings for another day.
"Certain retailers with exterior entrances, as well as certain restaurants at both properties may remain open to fulfill carry-out or delivery orders," CBL spokeswoman Stacey Keating said.
She said CBL also has closed other malls in markets where local governments have ordered retail closings.
The shutdown of the most retailers, along with this week's idling of Volkswagen and most of its suppliers and last week's closing of local restaurants, has idled thousands of Chattanooga workers. A survey released Monday by NFIB of small businesses across the country found that 76% of those businesses say they have already been hurt by the coronavirus with 54% reporting lower sales and 23% indicating supply problems because of other business shutdowns.
"We went through the Great Recession in 2008-2009, and this feels bigger than that," said Jim Brown, state director in Tennessee for the NFIB. "Businesses have seen their sales plummet in an unprecedented manner."
But as the heightened demand for household essentials continues across the country in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, a Tennessee-based retailer said Monday it plans to nearly double its normal hiring rate and add up to 50,000 employees by the end of April.
Dollar General, which has more than 20 stores in the metropolitan Chattanooga area and 16,300 stores nationwide, said most of the new jobs will be temporary to help handle the surge in demand for many of the household products and food items Americans are consuming more of at home as schools, restaurants, stores and many businesses shut down their operations to limit the spread of the virus.
"We believe our customers are relying on us now more than ever to provide an affordable, convenient retail option," Kathy Reardon, Dollar General's senior vice president and chief people officer, said in statement today. "The Dollar General family continues to do its part in helping our customers and neighbors during these unprecedented times."
Although Mayor Berke's order directed most stores to close, convenience and grocery stores are not covered by the shutdown directive, according to Berke spokeswowoman Richel Abright.
Dollar General's announcement is similar to those of other major retailers of food and other staples operating in the Chattanooga area. Food City is adding 2,500 jobs in its 4-state region and Walmart plans to add 150,000 workers, including 4,200 in Tennessee, by the end of May.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 757-6340.