Apple to extend store closures outside China

The company will attempt a 'staggered' reopening of outlets depending on local conditions

An Apple store on Fifth Avenue is closed due to coronavirus concerns, Wednesday, March 18, 2020 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Apple will extend the duration of its shop closures outside China to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Two weeks ago, the technology company said it would shut all outlets outside Greater China until March 27. This affected more than 460 shops, including about 270 of them in the US.

"For all of our retail stores outside of Greater China, we will reopen our stores on a staggered basis," said Deirdre O'Brien, Apple's senior vice president of retail and people.

The company is anticipating that some stores may be able to open in the first half of April depending on conditions in their local community, said Ms O’Brien. “We will provide updates for each store as soon as specific dates are established. We can’t wait to welcome our teams and customers back.”

On March 13, Apple reopened 42 shops in China that had been closed for more than a month.

"I want to recognise our teams in Greater China, where the ongoing response to Covid-19 is still a part of everyday life. All of our retail stores and offices [in China] have reopened with all the necessary measures in place," said Ms O'Brien.

People are seen in front of a closed Apple store in the inner city of Hamburg, northern Germany on March 19, 2020. / AFP / MORRIS MAC MATZEN

Employees can work remotely if their job profile allows while others onsite should follow the health guidance, said the company.

“In all our offices outside of Greater China, we are extending flexible work arrangements for all team members — outside of those whose work requires them to be onsite — through at least April 5, which will then be evaluated weekly depending on your location,” said Ms O’Brien.

Apple has also been offering free home delivery to encourage customers to buy online.

The tech company rolled out the latest laptop MacBook Air last week, as it looked to attract new customers.

However, the launch of other new products is less certain as supply chains have been disrupted due to the coronavirus outbreak. Analysts have warned that there could be a delay to the launch of Apple's first 5G phone after the pandemic led to a halt in industrial activity in China – a key production hub for the company.

Ms O'Brien said a lot of resources have been provided for people who are working at home, such as on how to set up a great home workspace and tips on staying healthy.

“We have also created leave policies to help our teams who have to take time off due to illness, or to care for a child or loved one affected by the outbreak.”

As the spread of the coronavirus cases shifts westward, it's unlikely that Apple outlets within the US will be among the first to open, said 9to5Mac, a website dedicated to Apple news.

“Other regions with Apple stores like Singapore have seen vastly lower case numbers. Public spaces in less impacted areas are more likely to open first with an abundance of caution,” it added.

Last month, the company also warned investors that supply constraints and falling demand in China will dent growth, making it unlikely to meet second quarter revenue targets.

In its earlier guidance for the three months to March 30, released on January 29, it projected revenue in the range of US$63 billion (Dh231.21bn) to $67bn, a year-on-year rise of almost 15.5 per cent.