How to survive the Covid-19 retail apocalypse

There are lessons to be learnt from the crisis, especially for companies willing to adapt

Rana Foroohar 


Aside from tourism and commercial real estate, it’s hard to imagine an industry that has been as devastated by Covid-19 as retail. In the US, malls are empty. Big brand chains from J Crew to Brooks Brothers to Lord & Taylor have filed for bankruptcy. In the work-from-home era, people still buy things — computers, home office equipment and wine — but apparel just isn’t top of mind these days.

US commerce department figures show that there was a 20 per cent decline in clothing sales last month compared with August 2019. When even Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, is at home in her sweatpants, who is thinking of dressing up?

Of course, if you are selling leisure wear, it is a different story. I recently caught up with Bayard Winthrop, chief executive of a private, midsized sportswear retailer, American Giant, I wrote about last year. The company produces upscale hoodies, T-shirts and other types of casual wear beloved of coastal hipsters.

Mr Winthrop says his company is actually on track to surpass its pre-Covid-19 sales growth goal of 35 per cent this year, thanks to a major uptick in sales post-lockdown. 

After minimal sales in March and April, revenues were up 60 per cent in May and 80 per cent in June, according to Mr Winthrop.

Part of this is luck — being in the right category. “If we were selling suits or formal wear, I doubt things would be looking good,” he says. But beyond this, his story holds some interesting lessons for brand survival in the pandemic era. 

Lesson one: lead with digital. Selling direct to consumers online was part of American Giant’s business model from the beginning. It was an important way to offset the higher labour costs incurred by its brand proposition, which is all about localised “Made in America” products. 

The company sources every element of its trademark sweatshirts, from cotton to cutting to finishing, in the US. Selling mostly online necessitated top-notch data analytics, which is where much of the company’s capital expenditure goes. 

This reflects a broader pre-pandemic trend towards higher earnings, innovation and enterprise value among the most digital-dependent corporations — a shift that has, of course, been put on steroids since coronavirus struck.

The second lesson: be creative about cost cutting and deal renegotiation. Mr Winthrop says plummeting sales early in the pandemic forced him to literally clean the house in an effort to cut costs. He ended up gathering scraps of fabric from factory floors that ordinarily would have gone into the bin and turned them into new garments.

Covid-19 also turned the tables between American Giant and its commercial landlords. Counter-intuitively, Mr Winthrop is looking to open a number of new retail branches in prime locations over the next few months, because real estate companies are suddenly willing to be much more flexible about floating leases in which payments would rise and fall depending on the company’s sales. 

“It’s been apocalyptic for landlords, and that gives us the opportunity to lean into deals that are going to be more symbiotic than in the past,” he says.

I’ve been hearing similar things from a number of tenants in midtown New York, which has become a bit of a ghost town with both tourists and business people gone because of the pandemic. One high-end salon and spa owner told me that he had been able to negotiate a floating monthly rent based on his sales, as had a nearby restaurant owner.

It is too soon to draw any firm conclusions, but I wonder if this could mark the beginning of a longer-term shift in tenant arrangements in some urban areas — and possibly even the residential mortgage market. 

Economists such as Nobel laureate Robert Shiller have long argued for mortgage payments that floated based on indicators such as unemployment rates or housing prices, in order to create a more resilient system in which risk is shared more equally.

The third and final lesson: price matters, but so does purpose. Mr Winthrop attributes part of the sales uptick to consumers’ growing interest in the “Made in America” mission that is a core part of the company brand. 

Certainly, localism is getting a lot more press these days thanks to the recent White House moves to block imports of certain products such as apparel from China, because of concerns about the use of forced labour in Xinjiang, where around 1m people, mostly Uighur Muslims, have been detained in re-education camps.

There is also a broader trend: younger shoppers are demanding that the companies they spend money with reflect their values, be those a desire for ethically and locally sourced products, or ones that are more environmentally sustainable.

Millennial and Gen Z consumers are nothing if not cost conscious — numerous studies show they are very price-sensitive and almost always search for coupons and do comparison shopping online. But they also value sustainability. Younger consumers would rather pay a bit more for a product that lasts longer (a higher quality garment rather than fast fashion, for example). 

Some even rent or borrow rather than buying new items (witness the rise of subscription services that allow consumers to use and return everything from clothing to furniture).

As ever, in crisis comes opportunity.

The 90% economy, revisited

Is the world economy recovering?

A recovery is taking shape—but it is extraordinarily uneven


The worst day of the covid-19 pandemic, at least from an economic perspective, was Good Friday. 

On April 10th lockdowns in many countries were at their most severe, confining people to their homes and crushing activity. 

Global GDP that day was 20% lower than it would otherwise have been (see chart 1). Since then governments have lifted lockdowns. 

Economies have begun to recover. Analysts are pencilling in global gdp growth of 7% or more in the third quarter of this year, compared with the second.


That may all sound remarkably V-shaped, but the world is still a long way from normal. Governments continue to enforce social-distancing measures to keep the virus at bay. 

These reduce output—by allowing fewer diners in restaurants at a time, say, or banning spectators from sports arenas. 

People remain nervous about being infected. Economic uncertainty among both consumers and firms is near record highs—and this very probably explains companies’ reluctance to invest (see chart 2).


Calculations by Goldman Sachs, a bank, suggest that social-distancing measures continue to reduce global gdp by 7-8%—roughly in line with what The Economist argued in April, when we coined the term “90% economy” to describe what would happen once lockdowns began to be lifted. 

Yet although the global economy is operating at about nine-tenths capacity, there is a lot of variation between industries and countries. Some are doing relatively—and surprisingly—well, others dreadfully.

Take the respective performance of goods and services. Goods have bounced back fast. Global retail sales had recovered their pre-pandemic level by July, according to research by JPMorgan Chase, another bank. 

Armed with $2trn-worth of cash handouts from governments since the virus struck, consumers across the world have stocked up on things to make it bearable to be at home more often, from laptops to dumbbells, which partly explains why world trade has held up better than economists had expected. Global factory output has made up nearly all the ground it lost during the lockdowns.

Services activity is a lot further below its pre-pandemic level, largely because such industries are vulnerable to people avoiding crowds. 

The number of diners in restaurants remains 30-40% lower than normal worldwide, according to data from OpenTable, a booking platform. The number of scheduled flights is about half what it was just before the pandemic struck.

The variation in economic performance between countries is even more striking. It is common for growth rates to diverge in downturns. But the size of this year’s collapse in output means that the differences between countries’ growth rates are enormous. 

On September 16th the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, issued fresh economic forecasts. Like other forecasters—such as the Federal Reserve, which on the same day published new projections for the American economy—it has become less gloomy in recent months.


Still, the growth gap between best and worst performers in the g7 group of countries in 2020 is expected to be 6.7 percentage points, far wider than that during the last global downturn a decade ago. 

Of the big economies, only China is set to expand in 2020. Some countries, such as America and South Korea, face a downturn but hardly a catastrophic one (see chart 3). 

Britain, by contrast, looks to be in line for its deepest recession since the Great Frost of 1709.

Some economists contend that the huge gap between countries is a statistical mirage, reflecting different methods of computing gdp figures. In Britain, for instance, the way statisticians tot up government spending means that school closures and cancelled hospital appointments have a bigger impact on GDP than elsewhere. But this effect is small—the bulk of the fall in output has come from the private sector.

Instead, performance comes down to three factors. The first is industrial composition. 

Countries such as Greece and Italy, which rely on retail and hospitality, always looked more vulnerable than, say, Germany. Its large manufacturing sector has benefited from the global goods recovery.

Second is confidence, which appears to be determined by a country’s experience under lockdown. Britain’s poor economic performance is likely to be related to the government’s poor handling of the pandemic. Britons seem more nervous than other Europeans about venturing outside.

The third factor is stimulus. America’s lawmakers may be unable to agree on a top-up, but they have already enacted the world’s largest rescue package, relative to the size of its economy. 

The OECD thinks it will be one of the better-performing rich countries this year.

What next for the 90% economy? Some authorities have been forced to order further lockdowns. But others may be able to calibrate social-distancing measures better without jeopardising output. 

That might bring the world closer to, say, a 95% economy. Indeed, the oecd expects global gdp to recover further this year.

It may be tempting to think that a vaccine, if it could be rolled out widely enough, would quickly restore normality. But there will be scars. Firms’ reluctance to invest today will mean less productive capital in the future. 

A growing number of American workers believe they will not be returning to their old jobs. Reallocating redundant resources towards more productive firms will take time. 

The Fed’s rate-setters reckon unemployment will not return to its pre-pandemic rate of 4% until 2023; analysts at Goldman Sachs think it will do so only in 2025, even though they are optimistic that a vaccine will soon be widely distributed. 

Much as the disease itself has long-lasting effects, the covid-induced downturn will leave the world economy feeling subpar for some time to come. 

Trump’s positive coronavirus test will cement US divisions

Electorate is riven by pandemic and protests against police violence

Christopher Caldwell 

         © Ingram Pinn/Financial Times


The announcement that US President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, have tested positive for coronavirus moves a new concern to the centre of American politics.

While the first priority is to wish Mr Trump and his family a speedy recovery, we must also reckon with the consequences of the diagnosis. Should the president develop Covid-19, which becomes more dangerous in older people, it will shake up the business of government. Whether he does or not, the logic of an already bitter and high-stakes campaign has probably been reinforced.

The pandemic was playing havoc with the president’s political fortunes long before he got the bad news from his doctor. Mr Trump ran for the White House in 2016 on the claim that American institutions, public and private, had grown corrupt. It was not just that the middle class was suffering economically, while the so-called 1 per cent thrived. It was also that a class of unelected leaders were misusing power that they claimed to be exercising for the public good. Experts, judges, journalists and the heads of foundations constituted a cultural 1 per cent. This was the “swamp” that he promised to drain.

Public-health experts belong to this class of people. When coronavirus struck the US, Mr Trump clashed with medical elites of all kinds: with the World Health Organization over the disease’s Chinese provenance; with the Centers for Disease Control over the wisdom of deregulating controversial treatments; and with almost everybody over the effectiveness of masks.

Mr Trump had some success in addressing coronavirus. He imposed early travel restrictions between the US and China. But the disease reinforced the bad feelings between him and American elites, who blamed him for its spread. A tone of Schadenfreude marked newspaper death tallies.

Coronavirus reinforced another, less discussed division — between the young and the old. Mr Trump was the candidate of those who had lost out from globalisation. That message meant less to those too young to have lost anything. In the 2016 election, he took only 37 per cent of the under-30s vote.

This year’s nationwide protests over the killing in May of George Floyd, an African-American man from Minneapolis, by a police officer became another source of division. Americans had been confined to their homes for months, in many cases deprived of their livelihoods, amid stern warnings from public authorities that violations would be punished. Now the streets were filled with mostly young people jostling shoulder to shoulder to protest police violence, and no consequences were being meted out.

Something broke in the US then. First, it appeared that there was one set of laws for the dowdy, Big Mac-chomping, Trump-supporting heartland and another set for the woke, Frappuccino-sipping Democratic cities.

A comparison can be made with the recent Covid-19 lockdowns in Madrid, where residents of heavily infected working-class areas are mostly confined to their neighbourhoods, while those strolling certain café-lined boulevards of the central city are not.

To Trump supporters, locking down the country seemed to permit a takeover of its big cities by race radicals. Any consensus behind across-the-board lockdowns evaporated then and has showed no signs of returning. The presidential campaign of Democrat Joe Biden has seemed vulnerable on this issue, trying to hold Mr Trump responsible for Covid-19-related economic slowdowns, even as Mr Biden calls for tightening government measures further.

It is difficult to tell whether the president’s positive coronavirus test will alter the course of the presidential race. In theory, Mr Trump could conceivably benefit from the news — acquiring an empathy for the Covid-vulnerable, while also displaying exemplary human toughness.

The evidence from the UK, however, is not encouraging. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had a case of Covid-19 serious enough to merit hospitalisation, and possesses a considerably wider communicative range than Mr Trump. Yet his pandemic-fighting policies were attacked with gusto in parliament even as he convalesced. The fierceness of the media criticism of senior adviser and Brexit architect Dominic Cummings for allegedly violating lockdown restrictions raised eyebrows abroad.

Whatever else it may do, the virus does not provide political immunity to those who contract it. Almost anything could happen. The remaining presidential debates may be postponed or cancelled, an outcome unlikely to disappoint the 69 per cent of Americans who told CBS they found the opening debate in Cleveland “annoying”.

Twitter being a medium one can deploy from isolation and even the sickbed, we may hear more from the president in the short term. Or we may now begin to hear his message from less abrasive and less charismatic surrogates. Either way, we are about to get some indication whether Trumpism is a sturdy ideology that can stand on its own, or a personalistic movement that requires the president’s undivided attention. 


The writer is a contributing editor at the Claremont Review of Books and author of ‘The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties’

In Morocco, Broken Promises and Bleak Prospects 

The country’s leaders have promised reforms but haven’t delivered. 

By: Hilal Khashan

 

 

Morocco is a unique country in the Middle East and North Africa region. Having been conquered by the Umayyad Caliphate in the early eighth century, it is the oldest and most established Arab country. It is also the only Arabic-speaking territory that the Ottomans failed to conquer. 

In 1558, the Saadi Arab dynasty, which ruled Morocco for roughly 100 years, stopped the Ottomans in the Battle of Wadi al-Laban and forced them to retreat to Algiers. 

Hailing from Hejaz in Arabia and claiming to be a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad, Mulay al-Rashid founded in 1666 the Alaouite dynasty, which continues to rule Morocco today. 

Though it became a French protectorate in 1912, Morocco gained independence in 1956, giving its people hope that it would adopt a democratic system and begin on a path toward economic development that would benefit all Moroccans. However, the country failed to make the necessary changes, and its prospects for growth now look bleak.

Turbulent Start

In 1957, Sultan Mohammed V declared himself king of Morocco. He died in 1961 and was succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Hassan II, whose turbulent reign lasted 38 years Two years after he took over the throne, Morocco claimed sovereignty over Tindouf and Bechar provinces, which instigated the Sands War with recently independent Algeria. 

Hassan also faced a serious challenge at home with the rise of Mehdi Ben Barka, who in 1959 founded the National Union of Popular Forces and won international recognition. Hassan accused Ben Barka of scheming to assassinate him, and strong indicators suggest that he ordered Ben Barka’s abduction. 

Disillusioned with Morocco’s democratic transformation and fearing for his life, Ben Barka sought refuge in France, where he mysteriously disappeared in 1965.

Alaouite Kings of Morocco
(click to enlarge)


In the early 1970s, Hassan survived two attempts to overthrow him. Citing the king’s failure to adopt necessary reforms, two senior and trusted army officers staged a coup attempt in 1971. 

A year later, Hassan’s confidant and minister of interior, Mohammed Oufkir, conspired with the Moroccan air force to shoot down his plane as it arrived from Paris. These two incidents hardened Hassan, who unleashed an unprecedented wave of terror against his opponents, including secret trials, wholesale liquidation of dissidents and widespread arrests of defectors. 

Hundreds of extrajudicial executions were carried out and many more peaceful activists disappeared. The notorious Tazmamart prison, where dozens of inmates died after being tortured and living in appalling conditions, became a symbol of the country’s downward spiral. In 1999, Hassan’s son, Mohammed VI, took over as king and, in 2004, set up the Equity and Reconciliation Commission to compensate the victims of his father’s era.

Mohammed VI was well aware of the difficulties his father encountered while trying to stabilize his regime. In January 2011, amid the Arab Spring uprisings, he established the Royal Moroccan Youth Movement to try to preempt protests similar to those that took place in Tunisia and Egypt. 

Its members were dubbed el-Ayasha, or those who say long live the king. It was conceived as a paramilitary organization and comprised delinquent and uneducated young men whose primary function was to prevent the emergence of opposition groups. 

The movement believed the king was a symbol of national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its members promised to give their lives to defend him. They blamed corruption on the officials surrounding him and warned fellow Moroccans of the dangers of foreign interference.

Still, the group could not prevent the emergence in 2011 of the February 20 Youth Movement, which called for greater freedom and social justice and demanded the introduction of a parliamentary monarchy. 

The brief pro-democracy uprising paved the way for the adoption of the 2011 constitution, which recognized Morocco as a constitutional and parliamentary democratic monarchy. It also emphasized the need for separate branches of government and making the wielders of power accountable to judicial review. 

The constitution, however, was not implemented in full and failed to bring the kind of democratic transition its proponents were hoping for.

The Amazigh Question

Another challenge for modern-day Morocco is how to integrate the Amazigh, or Berber, ethnic group. The majority of Amazigh live in northern Morocco, in a region called the Rif. 

In the 1920s, Abd el-Krim, an iconic Amazigh leader, fought French and Spanish colonial forces and founded the Republic of the Rif (1921-26). The Amazigh waged the Taflilat revolt in 1957, and Rif wars continued until 1959.


(click to enlarge)


Inspired by the Amazigh in Algeria, the Amazigh in Morocco demanded political integration, cultural recognition and economic development for their communities. 

But Hassan played a crucial role in suppressing the Amazigh, and in a 1984 speech in the Rif in northern Morocco, he described them as bandits, cannabis cultivators and smugglers and warned them against campaigning for greater autonomy.

Mohammed VI expressed genuine interest in integrating the Amazigh as long as he did not have to make political concessions. He created the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture, made Amazigh an official language on par with Arabic and opened a Tamazight TV station. However, little progress has been made on economic development. 

In 2016, peaceful protests erupted in the Rif region after an Amazigh fisherman in al-Hoceima, a city on the Mediterranean coast, tried to retrieve his fish that the authorities had dumped into a garbage truck. The protests were led by activist Nasser Zefzafi, who was arrested on charges of threatening national security and given a 20-year prison sentence. 

 Today, thanks to its rugged terrain, the Rif region maintains a de facto semiautonomous status largely outside the control of the state, except when the government decides to launch punitive military campaigns.

Future Prospects

Morocco’s progress has been limited in terms of both political reforms and economic development. Mohammed VI has not followed through on his promise to introduce political changes. The king’s supporters say that Morocco will become a parliamentary monarchy if and when capable political parties and a responsible civil society emerge. But they also note that it took Britain centuries to institute its constitutional monarchy and argue that Morocco’s history, its demographics and regional conflicts mean that the transition will take time. 

Meanwhile, Moroccan law still does not allow a single party to win an absolute majority in the House of Representatives. The king remains in full control, and parliament is essentially a rubber stamp for the monarch that merely approves the Cabinet’s bills. The king keeps parties on a tight leash and a close eye on nongovernmental organizations.

In 2002, 26 political parties ran in the general election. The top vote-getter, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, won just 12 percent of the assembly’s then 325 seats. Instead of appointing the party's leader, Abderrahmane Youssoufi, as head of the new government, the king designated Driss Jettou, an independent lawmaker, as the new prime minister. 

In the 2016 election, 27 political parties participated and 15 did not win a single seat. The Justice and Development Party, led by Abdelilah Benkirane, came in first place with 125 seats, while the Authenticity Party came in second with 23 seats. After Benkirane failed to form a Cabinet, the king appointed former Minister of Foreign Affairs Saadeddine El Othmani as prime minister.

In addition, many of the social reforms that Mohammed VI introduced after he assumed the throne were not properly implemented. Changes to the civil code, for example, apply only in theory, as polygamy and child marriage are still common. 

The promise of economic development has given way to stagnation because of bureaucratic lethargy and poor governance. Public debt exceeds $77 billion, more than 83 percent of gross domestic product, limiting investment in development projects. With a per capita income of $3,400, Morocco is the fourth-poorest Arab country.

Morocco's Sluggish Economic Growth
(click to enlarge)


Morocco failed to industrialize, and with economic growth in 2019 at 0.3 percent, it no longer attracts foreign investors. Several years of drought have weakened the agricultural sector, and the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced even more hurdles. 

These challenges prove that Morocco needs to adopt a new way of thinking about political and economic development.

 

Who Gets Hurt When the World Stops Using Cash

Some people don’t have credit or debit cards, so a growing number of state and local governments are requiring businesses to accept cash.

By Ann Carrns




Cash doesn’t have the status it used to.

In fact, some state and local governments are forcing businesses like restaurants and retail shops to continue accepting cash — concerned that cashless businesses effectively discriminate against consumers who do not have bank accounts or credit cards.

New York City will require most stores and restaurants to accept cash as of Nov. 19, joining cities including San Francisco; Berkeley, Calif.; and Philadelphia, all of which mandated acceptance of cash last year. New Jersey required acceptance of cash statewide in 2019, and it has been illegal for businesses to refuse cash in Massachusetts for decades. Many other cities and states are considering similar steps.

Concerns about a decline in the acceptance of cash surfaced well before the coronavirus arrived, as consumers grew more comfortable shopping online with credit or debit cards and paying quickly with mobile apps. Many businesses like electronic payments because they speed up purchases and reduce concern about theft.

Then, during the pandemic, restaurants and stores emphasized online ordering and digital payment to reduce interactions, and the risk of infection, among customers and employees. And as consumers stayed home, coin shortages occurred, making it difficult for some stores to give change. That added to a preference for electronic payments.

“The concern has been heightened as a result of the pandemic,” said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy at the Consumer Federation of America, a nonprofit advocacy group.

But as digital payments become more widespread, “we’re concerned that people aren’t going to be able to pay for necessities,” said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities at Consumer Action, an advocacy group.

Businesses that refuse cash put at a disadvantage people who lack traditional bank accounts or can’t qualify for credit cards, consumer advocates say. About one-fourth of American adults were unbanked or underbanked in 2019 — meaning they lacked a bank account or had one but also used alternatives like check-cashing services, the Federal Reserve found. Those consumers are more likely to be in a racial or ethnic minority group, have lower incomes and be less educated.

Some may like cash because it helps them budget their money or teach their children about spending. Others may be wary of a loss of privacy and vulnerability to hacking with electronic payments, or simply prefer cash, Ms. Grant said. “The decision should be the consumer’s.”

The federation and dozens of other advocacy and privacy rights groups are backing federal legislation that would prohibit brick-and-mortar retailers from refusing to accept cash. (It’s unclear if the bill will be considered this year, given the menu of pandemic-related issues before Congress.)

Consumers still use cash for more than one-quarter of all payments, according to Federal Reserve data from October, its latest comprehensive study of payment behavior. Cash was used for almost half of the payments under $10.

In a narrower Fed survey in April and May, aimed at spotting payment changes during the pandemic, 70 percent of participants said they were not avoiding cash because of concern about the virus.

Cash remains important to consumers despite a menu of competing payment options. “Many consumers value and prefer to use cash for everyday purchases, while others use cash as a backup, or for the convenience of small value payments,” Mark Gould, chief operating officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said in a statement last month that accompanied the narrowed Fed survey.

Shelle Santana, a visiting scholar at Harvard Business School who has studied payment trends, said it was unclear how aggressive the enforcement of the cash requirements had been during the pandemic. She said she foresaw a “less cash” society, rather than a truly cashless one, in the near term, since many people continue to rely on hard currency.

Some businesses that stopped accepting cash have reversed their policies voluntarily, Ms. Santana noted, after realizing they were excluding some customers.

“No one,” she said, “wants to turn away business.”

Here are some questions and answers about paying with cash:

Is it legal to refuse to accept cash?

There is no federal requirement that businesses accept cash or coins as payment, according to the Federal Reserve Board. “Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash” unless state law says otherwise, the board explains on its website.

Businesses like movie theaters, convenience stores and gas stations may refuse to accept bills over $20, and bus lines may ban payment of fares in pennies, the Treasury Department says.

How will New York City enforce its cash requirement?

The city’s Department of Consumer Affairs is responsible for enforcing the new rule, which was enacted this year. The department said that enforcement would be based on complaints and that it would issue instructions for filing a complaint before the rule took effect. Businesses that fail to comply may face fines of up to $1,000 for the first violation and $1,500 for subsequent violations.

The rule has some exceptions. For instance, a business can decline cash if it offers a cash conversion kiosk, which transfers the cash value to a debit card and is sometimes called a “reverse A.T.M.,” if the machine meets certain criteria.

Is it safe to pay with cash during the pandemic?

The virus that causes Covid-19 is mainly transmitted through close person-to-person contact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. It’s possible that someone could become infected by touching a surface or an object with the virus on it, but “this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” according to the agency.

While there has been concern that handling cash can spread germs, touching a payment terminal or handling a plastic card to a clerk may also pose a risk. The C.D.C. suggests using touchless payment if possible. “If you must handle money, a card or use a keypad, use hand sanitizer right after paying,” it says.

The World Health Organization has said that “it is good hygiene practice to wash your hands after handling money, especially if eating or handling food.