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With COVID-19 cases rising around the world, it looks like Apple has just shuttered all 38 of its stores in the U.K., bringing the total number of fully closed Apple retail stores up to 139 globally.
This follows a similar move in late December among U.S. Apple retail locations, where a new round of pandemic restrictions took down every Apple Store in Los Angeles — 13 in total — right before the Christmas holidays, quickly followed by the rest of its locations in California and Tennessee, plus 22 stores in Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico, and Brazil.
Along with these other December closures, Apple had actually shuttered 16 of its U.K. stores as a result of new Tier 4 restrictions, however as of this week, the list has now been expanded to include the remaining stores in the U.K. — 38 in total — as the entire country moves into a new series of strict lockdowns.
While the locations that shut down in December could still operate with Storefront Express pickup, it appears that even this won’t be permitted under the new “Tier 5” restrictions, which have ordered all schools and non-essential shops to be fully closed, and residents to stay indoors except for essential needs such as medical care, grocery shopping, and socially distanced exercise.
The new rules, which came after a record number of 58,784 cases were reported on Monday, are expected to remain in place until at least mid-February in England, while in Scotland, they could be lifted as soon as the end of January; Wales and Northern Ireland have already been in nationwide lockdowns since late December, which is where most of the already-closed Apple Stores were located.
Meanwhile, the German Apple Stores that were shut down last month were expected to reopen on January 11, but it’s unclear if that’s going to happen as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across most of Europe.
Most of the Apple Stores that remain open in the U.S. have already moved to Express Storefront pickup for online orders, with limited Genius appointments available. In Canada, the province of Ontario, which hosts 12 of the country’s 28 Apple Stores, a new set of lockdowns announced on Dec. 26th has forced many of the stores — all of which are located in malls — to move away from storefront pickups into an even more restricted “mall front” pickup policy, where orders are handled in a designated common area accessible from the exterior only.
Apple Holiday Return Policies
While Apple normally offers extended holiday return policies — in this case giving customers until January 8, 2021 to return products that were purchased before December 25 — these massive store closures have naturally created a problem, since in-store returns aren’t possible when stores are completely shuttered, and in fact even those that have moved to express storefront pickup aren’t necessarily accepting product returns.
Fortunately, according to MacRumors, Apple will be updating its holiday returns policies in those areas where stores have been shut down or placed into limited service status to ensure that customers will still be able to return products after stores reopen, even if the normal return window has closed. It’s unclear exactly how this will be handled as Apple has yet to make an official announcement or update its holiday returns policy pages, which still list the January 8, 2021 deadline in all affected countries, but it stands to reason that Apple should be willing to show some grace under the circumstances.