Microsoft is closing its retail stores and focusing on digital, while apparel retailer H&M is laying the groundwork for a debut issue of bonds after store closures—all because of the coronavirus pandemic.

(Bloomberg)—Microsoft Corp., No. 98 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, said it will close its physical store locations permanently but will continue to invest in a digital storefront.The move will result in a pretax charge of about $450 million, or 5 cents a share, in the current quarter, Microsoft said in a statement Friday.

“Our sales have grown online as our product portfolio has evolved to largely digital offerings, and our talented team has proven success serving customers beyond any physical location,” said Microsoft Corporate Vice President David Porter.

Microsoft’s stores were closed in late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Apple Inc. (No. 2) has reopened its retail sites only to have several of them close again as the virus resurges in some locations.

While under lockdown, Microsoft said its retail team has virtually trained hundreds of thousands of enterprise and education customers on remote work and learning software and helped customers with support calls. The team supported communities by hosting more than 14,000 online workshops and summer camps and more than 3,000 virtual graduations.

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Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft said it has seen “significant growth” through its digital storefronts, including Microsoft.com, and stores for Xbox and Windows. The company will continue to invest in digital innovation with new services including 1:1 video chat support, online tutorial videos and virtual works.

H&M prepares debut bond issue

 Swedish clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB (No. 11 in the Digital Commerce 360 Europe 500) is laying the groundwork for a debut issue of bonds after store closures and weak consumption due to the pandemic led to its first loss in at least a decade.
The company also said Friday it set up an extra commercial paper program to be able to borrow in currencies other than Swedish kronor. H&M said it’s ensuring financial flexibility in a challenging market where business opportunities may arise.

Companies around the world are rushing to the bond market to raise more money than ever before, spurred by low rates. June is on track to be one of the busiest months ever for U.S. high-yield issuance, contributing to a global corporate sales tally nearing $2 trillion.

“It’s about increasing our toolbox,” said H&M chief financial officer Adam Karlsson in a TV interview. “It’s more of a long-term plan.”

For now, opportunities for H&M look scarce. Europe’s second-largest clothing chain operator cut this year’s store opening plan and now expects 40 net closures rather than an increase of 35 shops. Inventory remains a perennial problem at 40 billion kronor ($4 billion), a record level in relation to annual sales. The retailer warned it needs to offer bigger discounts this quarter, which will erode profitability.

Shares of H&M dropped as much as 3.7% in Stockholm. They have lost a quarter of their value this year.

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While 80% of H&M stores had to shut in the middle of April, most have since reopened and only 7% remain closed. However, many shops have local restrictions to maintain hygiene and shorter opening hours.

H&M’s pretax loss amounted to 6.48 billion kronor in the three months through May, worse than analysts expected. The sales decline has moderated to 25% so far this month from 50% in the second quarter, and the company said the bounceback is better than expected.

The retailer has been taking measures to shore up cash, which stood at 12.7 billion kronor at the end of May. Earlier this year, H&M canceled its dividend.

The company also said it hasn’t made any decision about a first bond issue.

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