Alina Selyukh | New Hampshire Public Radio

Alina Selyukh

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Updated at 10:25 a.m. ET

Jerry D'Agostino had a job but couldn't afford a few things he wanted to do: a meal out once a week, go to the movies, attend Comic-Con. He was working alongside other people with disabilities at a center in Rhode Island, doing what he calls "benchwork" — rote tasks like fitting rings into heating tubes, packaging ice packs, assembling boxes for jewelry.

Updated at 9:03 a.m. ET

U.S. shoppers spent more prudently in August and retail sales grew a tepid 0.6% compared to July, as tens of millions of unemployed people stopped receiving extra federal jobless benefits and families faced a confusing back-to-school season.

Still, retail sales continued to grow, now for the fourth month in a row as people spent more at restaurants and bars and bought more furniture, electronics, cars and clothes. And for the first time in months, online stores saw no growth.

Walmart has teamed up with Microsoft in a bid to buy TikTok in one of the most unexpected twists in the saga of the hugely popular short-form video app.

In a statement, Walmart cited a potential boost from TikTok to the giant retailer's online presence, including its efforts to grow online advertising and a marketplace for third-party sellers.

Getting her daughter ready for the first day of sixth grade, in a normal year, Lidia Rodriguez would have by now spent a pretty penny on a lunchbox, her charter-school uniform and a special backpack, perhaps embroidered with her name: "Sofia."

But why buy a new uniform if last year's top still works for a Zoom call? And why splurge on a new backpack when the walk to school is a shuffle from the kitchen table to the bedroom desk?

In a year of mass work from home, Amazon is zagging by funding a big expansion of corporate office space and jobs in six cities.

For Lynette Gabriel, it started with a dressed-up Zoom brunch with girlfriends. She called in from her home in Oakland, Calif., in a leopard-print long-sleeve gown from the back of her closet. Snacking on smoked-salmon potato hash and sipping on a glass of rosé, Gabriel found her new house fashion.

"We actually now call ourselves 'The Real Housewives of Quarantine' in our house dresses," Gabriel says and chuckles.

It has been about five months since the U.S. economy ground to a halt, thanks to stay-at-home orders imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus. NPR wants to know how the pandemic has affected your job situation, your household finances, your business if you have one and your ability to juggle work and child care.

Millions of people have had to seek unemployment benefits, business loans and other help to deal with the economic turmoil. Some employers have permanently closed their doors. And some schools are telling families to prepare again for distance learning.

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A collapse in demand for suits and other office attire is leading another storied retailer across the brink, with the parent company of Men's Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank filing for bankruptcy.

Parent company Tailored Brands had been struggling with debt and flagging demand before the coronavirus pandemic. But the temporary store closures and collapse in apparel sales during the health crisis took their toll.

Lord & Taylor, the oldest U.S. department store chain, has joined the cascade of retailers tumbling into bankruptcy during the coronavirus pandemic. Sunday's filing comes less than a year after Lord & Taylor was acquired by an online clothing-rental startup called Le Tote.

Updated at 8:35 p.m. ET

Spikes in online shopping during the pandemic helped Amazon net $5.2 billion in profits as its sales soared to record highs between April and June.

Updated at 7:19 p.m. ET

Jeff Bezos is a man of many firsts. On Wednesday, he'll face a new one: his first appearance before Congress.

In a hearing via video with other major tech CEOs, lawmakers will grill Amazon's founder about the reach of his company, the rules it sets for workers and the power imbalance with other sellers on its platform.

Updated at 5 p.m. ET

Walmart says shoppers must wear masks inside its stores starting Monday — the largest retailer to join a growing list of companies making face covering mandatory across the nation.

A strange thing happened this spring.

As co-workers began to get sick, essential worker Yudelka LaVigna took an unpaid leave of absence. When she got her unemployment benefits, she realized something unheard of: She was making more money not working.

"That just kind of opens your eyes," says LaVigna, who's now back at her New York call center job for essential services.

Updated at 3:49 p.m. ET

Aunt Jemima will change its name and logo, acknowledging the brand's origins rooted in a racial stereotype, which hearkens back to nostalgia for the South in the times of slavery.

Toward the end of 2020, the 130-year-old pancake and syrup brand will remove the image of "Aunt Jemima" from packaging, parent companies Quaker Foods and PepsiCo said on Wednesday. The name change will follow.

Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET

As more states and cities allowed restaurants and shopping centers to reopen, U.S. retail spending swung big in May, climbing 17.7%, the U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday. Major stock indexes rose after the report was released.

Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET

As more states and cities allowed restaurants and shopping centers to reopen, U.S. retail spending swung big in May, climbing 17.7%, the U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday. Major stock indexes rose after the report was released.

Giving someone a facial is one of the more intimate jobs out there: leaning over someone else's face, treating it, massaging it.

"To be totally honest, a lot's going to have to happen for me to feel comfortable giving facials in person," says Hawaii-based facialist Nicole Burke Stephenson. "I'm questioning whether or not I'll ever use a steamer again because it blows people's breath into my face."

Hero pay. Thank You pay. Service pay. Hazard pay.

These were the many names for temporary pay bumps that some stores, warehouses and factories gave to workers who risked their health to continue to show up on the job during the pandemic.

It's hard to say that an extra $3 an hour made a dramatic difference in Sammy Сonde's budget. Maybe a few more groceries — soup is a dinner favorite — or an occasional treat of a takeout meal after a particularly tiring workday.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Hero pay, thank you pay, service pay - we are talking temporary pay bumps that some retailers and food companies have been giving their workers during the pandemic. Many are going away this month at a time when some workers feel their risks are only increasing. NPR's Alina Selyukh reports.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: It's hard to say that extra $3 an hour for working in a pandemic made a dramatic difference in Sammy Conde's budget.

Macy's losses during the coronavirus pandemic might mount to $1.1 billion in its first quarter. The company's warning Thursday is the latest highlight of a widening gap in retail between big sales of "essential" stores that remained open during the health crisis versus clothing and other "nonessential stores" that had to close.

The preliminary earnings report from Macy's echoed the pain felt at many other department stores and retail chains revealed in the first wave of financial disclosures since the pandemic began.

As the largest retail chain that remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, Walmart became a huge draw for shoppers. Its sales skyrocketed both in stores and online as people stocked up on food and necessities, as well as supplies to work out, teach, play and work from home.

The retailer says it hired a whopping 235,000 new workers during the health crisis to keep up with big demand at stores and warehouses.

As Target remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, the surge in demand online and in stores made an average April day comparable to a peak holiday-season Cyber Monday sale.

In its 118-year history, J.C. Penney has gone from a Wyoming-based dry-goods store to being a key pillar of the American mall.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Updated at 9:31 a.m. ET

In a historic collapse, retail spending in the United States nosedived again last month, dropping a record 16.4% as people avoided restaurants, bars, stores and malls during the coronavirus pandemic.

Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus has become the first department store chain to declare bankruptcy during the coronavirus pandemic. Its fall is foreboding to other chains, whose financial distress predates the health crisis, such as J.C. Penney.

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