Apple reopens 100 stores but could close again if Covid-19 pandemic worsens

The iPhone manufacturer closed all outlets outside Greater China in March and will not rush return, company says

epa08420303 An employee assists a customer inside a reopened Apple Store at The Summit shopping center in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 13 May 2020. A handful of Apple's US retail stores are being reopened with strict social distancing guidelines for customers amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The spread and containment efforts of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions to daily life across the globe.  EPA/ERIK S. LESSER

Apple reopened 100 retail stores globally as countries began to relax lockdowns amid the Covid-19 pandemic but said decisions are being taken based on “local conditions” and could be reversed, if needed.

“Our commitment is to only move forward with a reopening once we are confident we can safely return to serving customers from our stores,” Deirdre O'Brien, the company’s senior vice president of retail and people, said.

“These are not decisions we rush into … and a store opening in no way means that we won't take the preventative step of closing it again should local conditions warrant,” she added.

The Cupertino company is responding to the gradual easing of restrictions in many countries where Covid-19 infection rates are showing signs of slowing, and is planning to reopen a further 25 of its stores in the US this week. It has started bringing back staff in phases, with the first phase including staff members who cannot work remotely. A second phase will begin in July.

In March, Apple closed all outlets outside Greater China as the pandemic spread globally. This affected more than 460 shops, including about 270 in the US.

It started closing more than 50 Greater China stores in January but reopened all of them by mid-March.

“We have continued to refine and expand our in‑store health and safety measures, which have proven so effective in places like Greater China, where our stores have been safely open,” said Ms O'Brien.

CHARLESTON, SC - MAY 13: A security guard takes the temperature of a customer outside the Apple Store on May 13, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. Customers had their temperatures taken and were required to wear masks at the South Carolina store, as locations in Idaho, Alabama, and Alaska reopened as well following forced closures due to the coronavirus.   Sean Rayford/Getty Images/AFP

Apple is looking at every available piece of data - including local cases, near and long‑term trends and guidance from national and local health officials - before opening stores, it said. The company's three stores in the UAE will remain closed for the remainder of this week, according to its website.

The response to Covid-19 is still “ongoing” and the “road back will have its twists and turns”.

“But whatever challenges lie ahead, Covid‑19 has only reinforced our faith in people – in our teams, in our customers, in our communities,” Ms O'Brien said.

The company is limiting occupancy levels within stores and is making face coverings mandatory for all workers and customers.  It is also offering kerbside pick-up and dropoff or storefront-only services to customers who opt for it.

“We are focused on giving everybody lots of room and renewing our focus on one‑on‑one personalised service,” said Ms O'Brien.

“Temperature checks will be conducted at the door … screening of those with symptoms or who have had recent exposure to someone infected. Throughout the day, we are conducting enhanced deep cleanings that place special emphasis on all surfaces, display products and high traffic areas.”

In its earnings, Apple does not disclose its retail store revenue. However, direct sales, including retail stores and web, accounted for more than 30 per cent of its $260.17 billion (Dh954.82bn) revenue in 2019.

In addition, the tech giant has designed, tested and distributed almost 10 million face shields and sourced over 30 million face masks for healthcare professionals in hard-hit areas.

It also shared design files and manufacturing guides for making face shields on its website to encourage other manufacturers to help meet a shortage during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

In a rare partnership, it teamed up with Google last month to introduce a contact-tracing technology to reduce the spread of contagion.

In March, Apple also released a new screening tool and set of resources to help people stay informed and take the proper steps to protect their health during the spread of the coronavirus.