Apple to reopen its three UAE retail stores from Monday

Only 278 of the tech company's 510 outlets are currently open across the globe amid the Covid-19 pandemic

Customers at Apple’s Dubai Mall store. The tech company has two other stores in the UAE, one at Mall of the Emirates and the other at Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi. Leslie Pableo for The National
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Apple is set to reopen its three retail stores in the UAE from Monday as authorities ease Covid-19 restrictions.

The technology company has two stores in Dubai, at Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall, and a third at Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi.

Apple told The National that it will carry out temperature checks and limit the number of people in the stores to observe social distancing norms.

The stores will open from 11am to 7.30pm.

“We are excited to begin welcoming visitors back to some of our UAE stores this Monday ... we have missed our customers and look forward to offering our support,” the company said.

“With many [consumers] working and learning from home, we look forward to providing the service and support they need, whether that be picking up a new product or getting help with one they already own.”

Apple is responding to the gradual easing of restrictions by reopening stores in countries where Covid-19 infection rates are showing signs of slowing down.

The company, which is based in Cupertino, California, closed more than 50 stores in Greater China in January after the pandemic first took hold and reopened them in March.

It then closed all of its stores outside Greater China as the virus spread around the world. This affected more than 460 stores, including about 270 in the US.

Of its 510 outlets worldwide, 278 are now open. That number will rise to 281 when the UAE stores reopen today.

“Newly reopened stores will have significant safety procedures, including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings to ensure customers and employees continue to stay healthy,” Apple said.

The UAE is one of the best-performing markets for Apple. Customers queue outside an Apple store in September 2018 to buy newly launched iPhones. Leslie Pableo for The National

“Our social distance protocol means a limited number of visitors in the store at [any] one time, so there may be a delay for walk-in customers.”

Apple said in May that its decision to reopen stores was based on “local conditions” and could be reversed, if necessary.

“Our commitment is to only move forward with a reopening once we are confident we can safely return to serving customers,” 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 preventive step of closing it again should local conditions warrant [such]."

Apple’s employees are returning to the workplace gradually, with the first phase applying to employees who cannot work remotely. The second phase will begin in July.

Covid-19 restrictions also affected Apple’s performance in the first quarter of the year. The company’s iPhone sales declined 8.2 per cent year on year to 41 million units during the period.

Supply chain disruptions and lower consumer spending as a result of movement restrictions affected Apple’s sales, said Annette Zimmermann, research vice-president at Gartner.

“If Covid-19 would not have happened, the vendor would have likely seen its iPhone sales reach record levels in the quarter,” she said.

While Apple does not disclose its retail store revenue in its results, direct sales, including the contribution of retail and online stores, accounted for more than 30 per cent of its $260.17 billion (Dh955.6bn) in revenue last year.

Meanwhile, the company has designed, tested and distributed more than 10 million face shields and procured more than 30 million face masks for healthcare professionals in areas hit hard by the coronavirus across the world.

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