The beauty retailer is temporarily shutting down its stores amid growing concerns over the worldwide coronavirus pandemic

By Kaitlyn Frey
March 17, 2020 11:44 AM

As the number of Americans with confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) climbs to at least 4,482 people, beauty retailer Sephora has joined the growing list of establishments that have shut its doors amid the global pandemic.

In a statement shared on its website on late Monday, Sephora Americas President and CEO Jean-André Rougeot announced the “difficult decision” to close all of the retailer’s stores in the U.S. and Canada beginning Tuesday, March 17 through Friday, April 3.

“When Sephora first opened its doors, we did so with the mission to create a unique community for all beauty enthusiasts. Since then, we have always taken our responsibility to protect the well-being of our people and community seriously. It was with that responsibility in mind that we made this decision,” Rougeot said in his statement.

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“We also recognize that we are in a position to support the collective fight against COVID-19. Following guidance from public health authorities, we understand that practicing social distancing and reducing dense public gatherings as much as possible is critically important at this time. This is truly a global effort that requires all of our participation.”

While Sephora’s retail locations will be temporarily closed, Rougeot assured that customers will still be able to shop at and on its mobile app. The company is also waiving shipping fees during this time which can be redeemed by using the code, FREESHIP.

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As for adjusting Sephora’s return policy in light of the store closure, he said: “For product purchases made in store in the last 30 days as of today (March 16), we will accept in store returns, with receipt, within 30 days of store reopening. To ease returns for online orders, we have adjusted our current 30-day return policy and increased it to 60 days to be returned to the original method of payment.”

During this time, Rougeot ensured that all store employees will continue to receive their base pay for their shifts too.

Sephora isn’t the only beauty retailer that has temporarily shut its doors during the coronavirus outbreak. Ulta Beauty announced on Tuesday that it would temporarily close all retail locations until “at least” March 31. It will continue paying its employees during that time and will remain open for orders.

As part of the CDC’s recommendations to prevent the passage of the virus, it is encouraged to stand no closer than six-feet away from another person “for a prolonged period of time.” When it comes to non-essential beauty appointments like haircuts, facials and manicures or pedicures, Dr. Robert A. Norton, a professor of Public Health at Auburn University, told PEOPLE that the safest bet is to stay home.

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“People need to consider whether the necessity of the appointment or trip to the overrides the risk of being in public,” Norton said. “That is a personal decision, but social distancing is a wise move for now.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.