Many retailers are worried that violence may erupt after the elections if the battleground states post close numbers. While some level of chaos is expected everywhere, retailers are worried about riots and looting of stores. Such events were witnessed in the recent past during the protests to condemn police atrocities across the nation.
During the month of May, the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer triggered wide outrage across the nation and gave life to Black Lives Matter protests. Several stores closed down during that time due to the damage done to the property by rioters. Apart from that, even curfew was imposed in several riot-affected regions. Considering all these developments, big retailers like Target and CVS closed some locations and imposed restricted working hours across other locations.
Charles Ramsey, former police chief in Washington DC said that this election is unlike other elections in the past and the authorities have to be very careful about what may happen after Election Day. He added that police officials from several states interacted about possible violence and discussed measures to control such events.
On Thursday, Walmart had said that it had pulled guns and ammunition from the sales floor in order to prevent theft of arms in the event of post-election unrest. However, the decision was reversed on Friday as firearms were up for sale as usual.
Target and Home Depot have said that they are taking several precautions as they value the safety of their staff and customers. They said that they would take suitable decisions depending on the situation, and this is what they have done in the past during violent protests.
Even though they did not share details about the precautions, they confirmed that they are closely watching the political situation and kept their teams ready to handle the safety of customers in the event of any unrest after the elections.
This is the case with small businesses, also as they have limited resources to prepare for such events. Many small business owners were already hit by the pandemic, and now they have to deal with rioters and looters during protests. The National Retail Federation that has nearly 18000 members from all over the country said that they had instructed businesses to be prepared for post-election unrest. They had discussed the issues during an online meeting and planned different things to de-escalate conflict after the elections.
Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the US Chamber of Commerce, is rather hopeful about the situation and says that he expects it to be like the Y2K thing that was widely discussed and nothing happened after the event. The National Retail Federation, along with the Retail Industry Leaders Association issued a statement recently asking the general public to have confidence and show patience during the voting process.
The problem arises due to lots of people voting by mail this year due to the pandemic. In this situation, it may take a long time before the actual results are known to the public. During this time, unruly elements may take advantage of the situation and create havoc in the country.
To add to these problems, the country stands polarized due to various events that happened in the recent months. Due to these factors, it has become difficult for the authorities to control the public during protests.
The pandemic had caused a lot of turmoil and led to severe job losses across the nation. During this difficult phase, several incidents of racial injustice across the nation triggered a wide range of protests against the authorities. The manner in which such cases were handled further polarized the public. Even political parties took advantage of this situation and took sides to boost their voter base and sympathize with the public.
In Portland, Police Chief Chuck Lovell has asked business owners to monitor Twitter updates from the police to get news about possible unrest and violence after the elections. This will help the business owners to get authentic information, and they need not believe in rumours. Such moves are the need of the hour as the authorities can help business owners to keep their businesses safe from riots and minimize the losses during mob violence.
Simple measures like removing sandwich birds and furniture were suggested as such things are often used as projectiles or barricades by rioters. Apart from that, several retail giants are also planning to just shut down completely in the event of any violence and go home for the safety of their staff and customers. As it is practically not possible to estimate the level of violence that may happen, it makes no sense to defend against such violence.
Retailers have been at the receiving end ever since the pandemic started in the month of March. Several retailers faced problems and suffered damage just for asking their customers to wear masks. Some retailers chose not to allow shoppers carrying firearms for the safety of other customers. Even such logical moves triggered outrage and led to property damage in many instances this year.
Even though the retail industry is not expecting a huge civil-war kind of situation after the elections, they are expecting some amount of unrest in some regions. It makes sense to be prepared for such events as the retail outlets have a lot to lose in case of mob violence, and they will also be exposing their staff and customers to such violence.
Considering these developments, many customers have started piling supplies that can last for the next few weeks. Many stores had shortages of essentials like toilet paper during the last week. The next few days will be crucial, and the numbers that will be out on Tuesday night can give an indication of what to expect in the near future.
The best thing retailers can do in this situation is to lock down completely for the next few days in the event of any riots or violence. This way, they can prevent a lot of damage and keep their staff members safe. Not only that, even customers will not get caught in the middle, and they will also be safe if the big outlets are completely closed during the unrest.