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Coronavirus Quarantine: GameStop Claims Its Stores Are "Essential Retail"

By Anders Bylund - Mar 19, 2020 at 8:12PM

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The video game retailer is trying the newest trick in the book to stay open during coronavirus lockdowns.

Video game retailer GameStop (GME 0.92%) is trying a curious move to keep stores open during the coronavirus quarantines and lockdowns. If local authorities show up to close down a store location, the store's personnel should refuse because GameStop's outlets are "essential retail."

That's a bit of a stretch.

What GameStop is saying

In a memo to GameStop locations across the country, the company asked its store managers to resist any attempts to close their business over coronavirus fears. The memo has been confirmed by multiple independent sources, including Kotaku and Vice.

"Due to the products we carry that enable and enhance our customers' experience in working from home," reads the memo, "we believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time," the memo says. The document then asks law enforcement officers to call GameStop's headquarters if they don't accept this policy.

A businessman facing away from the viewer, holding one hand up while crossing his fingers on the other one behind his back.

"I swear, officer -- this store is essential!" Image source: Getty Images.

What's wrong with this idea?

The "essential retail" designation ensures that citizens in lockdown can access necessary items such as medicine and food.

Even if you could argue that video games fall in this category (as my 16-year-old son might), your local GameStop is easily replaced by direct downloads, in most cases. And if you're looking for physical hardware, there's no shortage of e-commerce outlets that offer home delivery, even in this crisis.

But can you blame them for trying?

GameStop is in dire financial straits, hoping to save its own bacon with the release of next-generation gaming consoles for the holidays. If the coronavirus pandemic delays these new systems by another year, the company might not be around to enjoy that turnaround.

Closing stores for several months won't help, either. It makes sense that GameStop is trying to stay open at all costs, but it's not going to work.

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