Today marks a significant milestone for Apple in what has been a long road to recovery from the global health pandemic that started to take hold in North America about a year ago — for the first time in almost a year, all 270 Apple Stores in the U.S. have reopened in at least some capacity.
The news comes courtesy of 9to5Mac, which has been actively tracking Apple Store closures and re-openings almost from the very beginning. Following a limited regional closure of Apple Stores in China throughout February of last year, Apple shuttered all of its other stores worldwide on March 13, 2020, making it the first major retailer in the U.S. to do so in a voluntary response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It would be more than a month before any Apple Store outside of China reopened its doors at all, and even that was limited to its lone South Korean location, which reopened on April 18th; no others even began opening until early May, with the first few U.S. stores reopening on May 11, 2020.
Following that, however, Apple’s U.S. retail locations began what could only be described as a roller-coaster ride through not only the multiple waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also other issues, including looting and vandalism from opportunistic thieves taking advantage of peaceful demonstrations, California wildfires, and potential civil unrest around Election Day and Inauguration Day that required extra security precautions.
As a result of health precautions, many Apple Stores also moved to Express Pickup, effectively closing down all in-store shopping, but as another big wave of the COVID-19 cases hit in certain areas, it seemed that wasn’t even enough, and by the week before Christmas, Apple had once again shut down 1/5th of its stores worldwide, including those in the Greater Los Angeles area, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Alabama, and Georgia.
By the middle of last month, Apple had begun slowly re-opening many of these stores, however as 9to5Mac notes, Apple’s plans for its locations in Austin, Texas were further delayed by the severe winter storms that plagued that area over the past week or so.
All 270 Now Open — Sort Of
However, as of today, March 1, it appears that all the 270 Apple retail locations in the U.S. have reopened, and although many are still operating in a limited capacity — either exclusively offering Express Pickup or in-store shopping by appointment only — the fact that they’re all open is a significant milestone, as it’s the first time in 353 days that at least one Apple Store hasn’t been shut down completely.
According to 9to5Mac, Apple is also still expanding its in-store shopping to as many U.S. locations as possible, moving away from the Express Storefront model, although in most cases you’ll still need to book an appointment for a shopping session. As of today, this now includes around two dozen stores in California, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, and Utah. With the 100+ locations that already moved to in-store shopping throughout the month of February, it’s safe to say that over half of the Apple Stores in the U.S. are now offering in-person shopping.
While this is an encouraging milestone, that doesn’t mean that we don’t still have a long road ahead before the Apple retail shopping experience returns to what it once was.
All Apple Stores are still enforcing the same health and safety guidelines as they did when they started to reopen last May, including reduced occupancy, mask requirements, and temperature checks, and very few are yet offering simple walk-in shopping or support services — in most cases, you’ll still need to book an appointment before you show up.
From the beginning, Apple has also made it abundantly clear that it will not hesitate to shut any store down again if local health conditions deteriorate, so there’s no guarantee that another wave couldn’t result in stores either returning to Express Storefront Pickup or closing down their operations entirely.
Around a dozen Apple Stores in France and Brazil also remain fully closed right now, while stores in Mexico are expected to reopen on March 2. Apple Stores in Canada also remain open, although most of those in the Greater Toronto Area are operating in Express Storefront or even “Mall-front” pickup mode due to provincial lockdown regulations.