Although Apple has managed to reopen all of its 42 retail stores in Greater China, as of late Friday it announced that it would be closing all of its retail stores in the rest of the world — making it the first major retailer in the United States to do so.
The move actually began with stores in Italy being shut down last week as the COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading like wildfire in that country, and this was followed not long after by the announcement that the Apple Stores in nearby Spain would also be all closing down. As of late Friday, however, that’s been extended to cover all Apple retail stores around the world.
Apple made the announcement in a press release that outlines its overall response to COVID-19, noting that it believes that closing down its stores is one the “most effective ways that it can minimize risk of the virus’s transmission” by reducing density and maximizing social distance.
We will be closing all of our retail stores outside of Greater China until March 27.
Since COVID-19 has already completed wreaking its havoc in China and the country is getting things under control, the Chinese Apple Stores will remain open, which Apple undoubtedly hopes will help it make up for sales already lost during the weeks that the retailers in that country were shut down.
An Apple Store employee in Santa Monica also tested positive for COVID-19 last week, according to TechCrunch, however the employee had been on leave caring for a relative since March 2 and had not been in the store during that time.
While Apple’s announcement said that stores will be closed “until March 27,” it’s reasonable to assume that like most businesses and governments worldwide, it will be reevaluating the situation, and there’s no reason to believe that this deadline may not be extended if things don’t appear to be improving by that point.
Pickups May Still Be Available
Despite the announcement that the stores will be closing down, MacRumors notes that some may remain partially open only to allow customers to pickup items that they had previously ordered on the online Apple Store or items that had been brought in to the Genius Bar for repairs.
An online Apple support representative indicated that stores were to remain open for “limited opening hours” from March 14 to March 16 to allow customers to collect their pending pickups, however it’s unclear right now whether this applies to all Apple Stores or only specific ones. In some cases, customers have proactively received a phone call from their local store, while customers dealing with other stores have been told that they’ll have to wait until March 27 when the stores reopen to pickup their computers that were brought in for service. So you’re mileage may vary, and if you’re in this situation it would be best to contact Apple Support or your local Apple Store to confirm rather than just showing up.
Apple’s Response to COVID-19
Before deciding to close its stores entirely, Apple previously suspended its Today at Apple sessions in order to try to minimize the crowds visiting its stores, and notes that these won’t resume before April 5, with some of the more high-profile ones that may draw larger crowds postponed until at least April 12. According to MacRumors Apple has also suspended its online training seminars for authorized technicians, which is a bit more unusual considering that these are online sessions.
Apple will be continuing to pay all of its retail hourly workers during the time that stores are shut down based on the hours that they would have been scheduled to work had the stores been open. In addition, Apple has sent out a memo to Apple Authorized Service Providers letting them know that they will receive “maximum payouts” for all qualifying product repairs for the months of March and April, “regardless of performance metrics,” in order to make sure that they’re financially supported during the pandemic.
In addition to closing its retail stores and encouraging its corporate employees to work from home as much as possible, Apple has also already donated $15 million to the global COVID-19 response worldwide, and will be matching employee donations two-to-one to support continuing COVID-19 response efforts at all levels.