Apple to reopen stores in US starting next week

Apple will reopen some stores in the United States next week, with temperature controls and a limited number of customers on the site at any given time, the company told CNBC.

The vast majority of Apple stores outside of China have been closed since March in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In recent weeks, a few sites have reopened in countries like South Korea, Australia and Germany.

Apple stores are a key demand driver for the company’s products. Their reopening is a sign that the company’s operations are slowly returning to normal during what Apple CEO Tim Cook has called “the most difficult global environment” the company has ever known.

“We are delighted to begin reopening stores in the United States next week, starting with some stores in Idaho, South Carolina, Alabama and Alaska,” said an Apple representative in a statement. “Our team is constantly monitoring local health data and government advice, and as soon as we can safely open our stores, we will.”

Apple has only six stores in these states and has not confirmed that all of them will open next week. Overall, Apple has 510 stores worldwide and 271 stores in the United States.

Apple said the stores’ primary goal would be to repair products and put in place safety procedures to protect staff and customers from coronavirus, including temperature controls for employees and customers, the social isolation and masks for employees.

“Our new social distance protocol allows a limited number of visitors to the store at a time, so there may be a delay for walk-in customers. We recommend, if possible, that customers shop online for a contactless delivery or store pickup, “Apple said in a statement.

Although Apple stores in the U.S. have been closed since mid-March, the company reported a slight increase in total sales during the quarter ended in March. The company also said that overall retail sales – including online sales – hit a record high in the quarter.

“What we saw during this quarter was that the online store had a phenomenal quarter,” Cook said in April to CNBC’s Josh Lipton. “The growth was literally off the charts. And so I care more about the combination of the two than I do one in particular.”

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