When Patagonia announced on March 13 that it was temporarily closing its 39 stores and e-commerce business in North America because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was one of the first major retailers to take such a drastic step.
The company’s chief executive thought the situation would last about a month.
As it became clear “this was going to be a prolonged thing, we had to think about what our business looks like in the face of Covid-19,” Rose Marcario, the C.E.O., said in an interview.
Now the retailer that aggressively moved to close before any government shutdowns were announced is being very cautious in deciding how to open up again.
Retailers like Macy’s and Gap, which owns Banana Republic and Old Navy, have begun reopening hundreds of stores as they scramble to recoup lost sales and as states around the country begin to try to return to some semblance of normalcy.
“We’re going to be cautious about the way we open up — we’re not going to necessarily follow what the state decrees are,” Ms. Marcario said. “There are some areas that aren’t as hard hit, but I don’t think you can assume those places won’t see a surge in cases if people stop social-distancing.”
She believes “the shape of retail will change.” People will be more reliant on e-commerce and “the return to walk-in retail will be slow.”
Patagonia has achieved renown in the retail world both for its financial success and its unapologetically progressive stances on issues like climate change and the use of public lands. (It sued President Trump to protect Bears Ears National Monument.) The privately held brand sells roughly $1 billion in soft fleeces and camping gear every year while decrying rampant consumerism.
Patagonia is held to a different set of standards than major publicly traded corporations based on its certification as a B Corp by a nonprofit called the B Lab, which legally requires the company to consider the interests of “workers, the community and the environment” as well as shareholders. It also offers on-site child care and lets employees take surf breaks during the day.