The impacts of social distancing efforts are now rippling through the retailing world. Nordstrom (JWN -0.34%) said on Monday afternoon that it will temporarily close all its stores in the U.S. and Canada for at least two weeks as it seeks to protect employee and customer health while responding to a dramatic drop in customer traffic.

A woman checks her phone while shopping.

Image source: Getty Images.

What happened?

In a press release, the retailer said sales trends in February were right within management's expectations, but that the first few weeks of March brought about a "broad-based deceleration in customer demand." That shortfall was especially pronounced in markets that are seeing heavy impacts from the coronavirus.

What's next?

In response, Nordstrom withdrew its fiscal year outlook citing heightened uncertainty around demand trends for the foreseeable future. Management noted that the company had navigated through many market disruptions in its over 100-year history, though. Its digital selling channel, responsible for roughly one-third of the business, is still humming.

The retailer says it has ample financial flexibility today, but is seeking to boost that cushion by cutting costs and suspending stock repurchase spending. Those savings initiatives spare store employees, who will receive pay and benefits through the end of March despite the pause in retailing operations.