Almost three weeks ago, Apple became the first major U.S. retailer to proactively close all of its stores outside of China in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, well ahead of the point where U.S. officials began actually mandating the shutdown of nonessential businesses in many cities and states.
While Apple’s original announcement simply said that the stores would be shut down for two weeks — meaning they were originally slated to reopen last Friday — Apple quickly updated its website to say that the stores would be closed until further notice.
Apple’s move followed only a day after its decision to shutdown all of its stores in Italy, and although it had closed all of its retail operations in mainland China as the outbreak raged through that country in late January and early February, by the time March rolled around, Chinese Stores had gradually began reopening.
Last week an internal memo from Apple’s Senior VP of Retail Operations, Deirdre O’Brien, revealed that Apple Stores were planning to stagger openings in a a similar manner to what had been done in China, and that some stores could actually open as soon as the first half of April. However now it seems that Apple is rethinking that stance, with a new memo obtained by 9to5mac that now indicates that all Apple stores in the U.S. at least will remain closed until at least May.
The new memo again comes directly from the desk of Apple’s retail chief, who also heads up Apple’s HR department, so it also reassures Apple employees throughout the company, both those retail workers who are now sheltering at home and corporate staff who are still working in various capacities, that Apple will continue to support them, including offering flexible work arrangements and options for employees to work remotely as AppleCare At Home Advisers, at their own option.
‘Proactive and Thinking Ahead’
Ron Johnson, Apple’s legendary Senior Vice President of retail operations who spearheaded the opening of the very first Apple Stores 20 years ago, has also offered his own praise for Apple’s proactive and thoughtful approach to the pandemic.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance, Johnson offered a fairly grim outlook for the retail industry in general, suggesting that it’s going to be a different world when consumers emerge from the shelter of their homes, and suggests that many large department stores are going to suffer as a result. In the conversation, however, he also lauded Apple for being ahead of the curve when it came to dealing with the novel coronavirus outbreak from the very beginning.
“Apple has the benefit. They’re always proactive and thinking ahead. They have nearly 50 stores in China that they shut down immediately when the issues happened in Wuhan. And they slowly, over a six-week period of time, as I understand it, reopened those stores. But when they reopened those stores, it was a different experience. They did a lot of things to ensure safety, whether it was changing what programs are offered in the store, how many customers can come in a store at a time.”
– Ron Johnson, former Apple SVP of Retail Operations
While Apple would surely like to get its stores reopened as soon as it possibly can, the closure of its physical retail stores hasn’t had any impact on its online store, which remains fully open for business to order Apple products. Further, as one of the world’s most valuable companies that’s sitting on over $250 billion in cash, it can afford to be more patient than most, and is in a very strong position to weather the current storm, regardless of how long it has to keep its stores closed.