Now, we must evaluate what we’ve learned since the start of the pandemic, and question whether the virus will change retail forever.
Though retail has only ever played a small part in Apple’s overall device sales strategy, news that the company would temporarily shutter all of its outlets outside of China on March 13 made it clear that the coronavirus would have a significant impact on the Cupertino giant. And though the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has varied considerably from country to country, and indeed from state to state in the US, Apple made it clear from the start that its customers were a priority, and by closing stores for the foreseeable future, Apple could do its bit to help reduce the spread of a virus that has changed the way we live immeasurably.
For the first time in history, consumers could no longer walk into their local Apple Store to pick up a new iPhone, touch and feel the latest MacBook, or speak to an expert at a Genius Bar. Worse still, those who had sent a device to the store for repair would have to wait to get it back, though the company revised that policy and reopened some outlets for pick-ups only.
Speaking at the time of the closures, Tim Cook said that he wanted to “recognize Apple’s family in Greater China. Though the rate of infections has dramatically declined, we know COVID-19’s effects are still being strongly felt.” He added: “I want to express my deep gratitude to our team in China for their determination and spirit. As of today, all of our stores in Greater China have reopened. I also want to thank our operations team and partners for their remarkable efforts to restore our supply chain. What we’ve learned together has helped us all develop the best practices that are assisting enormously in our global response.”
“One of those lessons is that the most effective way to minimize the risk of the transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance. As rates of infections continue to grow in other places, we’re taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers,” he added, before confirming that all of the company’s retail stores would be closed temporarily.
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May 22, 2020