As the Coronavirus continues to rage on in Italy, Apple has announced the indefinite closure of all of its 17 retail locations in the country, with no word on when it plans to reopen them.
The move is probably not all that surprising considering that Italy is now the second hardest-hit country from the COVID-19 outbreak next to China, and the Italian government has been cracking down on retail stores in the midst of a nationwide quarantine. Apple previously closed all 42 of its Apple Stores in mainland China, although it has since reopened most of them as the outbreak has come under control in that country.
In terms of when the stores will reopen, Apple has only said that they “will remain closed until a later date” and that it will “closely monitor the situation,” however it’s unlikely that they’re going to be back up and running before April 3 when Italy’s nationwide lockdown is scheduled to lift.
As we support the work to contain and manage the spread of Covid-19, our priority remains the health and safety of everyone in the communities we serve.Apple statement
In the meantime, Apple is directed customers to its online support website, and its online store also remains open in Italy for customers who wish to purchase products.
Even though Apple Stores remain open in the rest of the world, there are signs that Apple is beginning to scale back some of its services in order to protect its employees and customers, with Business Insider noting that Apple retail staff have been told to stop offering customers the opportunity to try on demo Apple Watches or AirPods.
While the directive doesn’t ban try-ons completely, it’s instructing employees not to offer try-ons or otherwise “encourage” customers to do so, but they’ll still be permitted — for now — for those who specifically request to do so.
It’s not clear whether all Apple Stores have yet implemented this policy, but it makes sense as a way to help limit transmission of the coronavirus, and Apple has been implementing other policies and procedures as well including boosting the cleaning staff in stores, installing hand sanitizer stations, and limiting crowd sizes.
Apple also announced earlier this week that it would offer unlimited paid leave for any retail employees who began showing potential symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. The announcement came around the same time that a worker at Apple’s European headquarters in Cork, Ireland tested positive for the virus. Since many retail employees depend heavily on their weekly paycheques, offering paid leave for those who aren’t feeling well will remove the need for employees to force themselves to come in to work because they can’t afford not to.
Meanwhile in China
As the coronavirus appears to dissipate in China, it looks like Apple’s supply chain is also returning back to full capacity, with Foxconn founder Terry Gou telling the South China Morning Post that the resumption of production at its mainland Chinese factories has “exceeded our expectations and imagination” and that supplies of material to its plants has returned to normal. Gou did add, however, that the electronics supply chain in Japan and South Korea are still having problems with the COVID-19 outbreak that has driven up the prices of some components and created supply issues with display panels.
Gou also expressed concern about weak consumer demand as a result of the pandemic, since it doesn’t matter how fast Foxconn and the rest of Apple’s Chinese supply chain can make Apple’s products if nobody is actually buying them.