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More US retailers shut stores to limit coronavirus spread

[NEW YORK] More major retailers said on Sunday they would shut stores in the United States to limit the spread of the coronavirus, including Nike, Under Armour , and Lululemon Athletica, a day after similar moves by several other US retailers.

The coronavirus, which has already caused schools to close and put an end to sports events in the United States, is likely to hit retailers' sales as virus-wary shoppers in Europe and the US stay home.

Nike stores in Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand will be closed from March 16 to 27, the sportswear giant said in a statement. Its stores in South Korea, Japan, most of China and in many other countries, however, would continue their normal operations.

Under Armour said it would shutter all of its stores in North America from Monday for about two weeks, while Lululemon said its stores would be closed in North America and Europe for a similar period.

Nike and Lululemon operate more than 650 stores in the US, while Under Armour has nearly 190 stores in North America, according to the companies' latest annual reports. Their online stores would continue to be available to shoppers.

America's top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci warned Sunday that conditions would likely get worse before they get better.

"We are living in uncertain times and we're learning more about this virus every day," Lululemon said in a statement.

The coronavirus outbreak began in China but has spread around the world. COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, is a highly contagious respiratory illness.

"We are taking additional steps in other Nike-managed facilities, including the option to work from home," Nike said.

Wisconsin-based apparel retailer Lands End Inc and Columbia Sportswear Company also said on Sunday they were shutting all of their retail stores in the United States and North America respectively.

Earlier this month Nike had temporarily closed its European headquarters in Netherlands after an employee was infected with the coronavirus.

Apparel retailer Urban Outfitters Inc, which owns brands including Anthropologie and Free People, said on Saturday it was closing all its consumer stores worldwide until at least March 28.

However, retailers including Macy's Inc, Saks Fifth Avenue and Gap Inc's Banana Republic sent notices to shoppers last week saying they were open for business in a move to stem losses due to a steep drop in store traffic.

REUTERS