Apple Creates New Online Shopping Hub as More Retail Stores Around the World Slowly Reopen

Apple Store Dusseldorf Credit: Apple
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While Apple’s Stores remain closed throughout most the world, the company is naturally striving to make sure that it’s online store not only remains open for business, but can come closer to offering the kind of shopping experience normally found in its brick-and-mortar retail stores.

To that end, Apple has launched a new Apple Store Online page that offers a single one-stop landing point for getting more information about Apple’s products and services while staying sheltered in place at home — offering, as Apple puts it, “Everything you love about our stores … online.”

The page, which is linked from a small banner at the top of Apple’s main home page and appears to be limited to the U.S. site right now, offers information about no-contact delivery options, the ability to chat with an Apple Specialist for shopping help and product information, plus links to financing and credit options, Apple’s trade-in program, Genius Bar help, and even Today at Apple sessions that can be enjoyed from home, effectively replicating the full range of services that you could access if you could actually walk into an Apple Retail Store right now.

While most of these services have already been available on Apple’s website for some time, they were scattered about and could be hard to find. The new hub offers a way for customers to easily find everything they need from Apple all in one easy spot, effectively providing a digital version of an Apple Store concierge.

Stores Slowly Reopening

Apple has been slowly re-opening its stores around the world, with the lone store in Vienna, Austria and all but one of the 20-plus Apple Stores in Australia reopening this week following the mid-April reopening of the company’s sole location in Seoul, South Korea.

While Apple hopes to reopen “many more” retail stores this month, the company will not only be forced to keep in stride with local health regulations, but Apple CEO Tim Cook has already stated that it likely won’t be the first retailer to reopen in any given location. In contrast to many other countries, Apple was actually one of the few major retailers in Australia that actually ceased operations, and most shopping malls actually remained open throughout the crisis, merely adding new social distancing restrictions, making Apple Stores an outlier in that country.

Apple also announced this week that it plans to reopen all 15 of its stores in Germany on Monday, May 11, although some may operate at reduced hours, which will be posted for each specific location on its retail website. Although Germany isn’t as far past the curve of COVID-19 cases as the other three countries where Apple has already reopened, it has seen a steady decline in cases for long enough that the government has opted to ease the lockdown and allow retail stores to resume business, which will make it the first country outside of China where Apple has reopened a large number of stores following a government mandated closure.

In the U.S., on the other hand, which includes more than half of the Apple Stores worldwide, Cook has noted that Apple hopes to re-open “just a few, not a large number” of the 271 locations across the 50 states, suggesting that most customers will have to wait a bit longer before their local Apple Store reopens, even in those states that are already easing restrictions.

However, even in those countries where Apple Stores have reopened, it’s not business as usual yet. Apple is focusing on Genius Bar service and support, since those are more necessary than product sales, and is encouraging customers to continue to order online wherever possible, even if they plan to pick up their purchase in person, in order to minimize social contact. The stores themselves will also continue to include enhanced health and safety measures such as checking body temperature prior to entry, limiting the number of people in the store, and practicing social distancing and thorough cleaning procedures.

Of Apple’s 511 stores worldwide, the company shut down its 458 retail stores outside of Greater China on March 13th, and most of these remain closed. With the re-openings in South Korea, Austria, Australia, and Germany, Apple will have only 38 of its stores back in operation, so clearly the company still has a long way to go before full retail operations have resumed. Apple has 271 locations in the United States — more than half of all of its Apple Stores worldwide — while Greater China, where Apple Stores have remained open throughout much of the crisis, comes in at a distant second for the largest number of stores in any one country, with 42 locations in mainland China plus a smattering of stores in the Greater China regions of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

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