/ Modified may 22, 2020 4:06 p.m.

Shorter hours and masks required as longtime Tucson retailer reopens stores

The owner of Sam Levitz says the company has brought back nearly all of the 550 employees furloughed in April.

Among the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic, retail sales nationwide plunged more than 21% in April compared to last year, according to data published by the University of Arizona Eller College of Management Economic and Business Research Center.

Longtime retailer Sam Levitz started 2020 on a high note but had to hit the brakes in March and closed during April. In May, the company reopened its stores with added precautions, which Tony Paniagua discussed with CEO Sam Levitz.

“In March, we had 628 staff members and we furloughed about 550 of those once we had to shut down. And then, more recently, we have brought back 500. So, we are now almost fully staffed,” Levitz said. “We figured that we were probably going to reopen at probably about 50% of where we were. And we’re doing a little better than that.”

Stores now require staff and customers wear masks, which are supplied by the company if a customer arrives without one. It also cut back hours and allows customers to schedule an appointment during times of the day when fewer people are in the building.

“Our most important process that we are concerned about is our staff and customer safety. And we’re going to do everything above and beyond what is called for to make sure that that happens,” Levitz said.

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