Like most of the country, Apple Stores in the U.S. have been shut down since March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. But that's about to change.
A handful of Apple's stores will open next week as the company slowly begins to bring its brick-and-mortar retail back online after nearly two months of a total shutdown in the U.S.
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Which Apple Stores will open their doors, and what will the experience be like? Here's what we know so far about Apple's plans to get back to business with its stores.
How long have Apple Stores been closed?
Apple announced back on March 13 that it was closing all its stores outside of China for two weeks in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Soon after, Apple extended that closure indefinitely as the global outbreak worsened.
Apple's decision meant that all 271 of its stores in the U.S. have been shuttered for eight weeks. The company operates 511 stores worldwide.
The closures haven't just meant lost sales opportunities for Apple. Many customers turn to the Apple stores for help and repairs with products at Apple's Genius Bars, so that service has been on hold since March.
Apple stores outside the U.S. have already begun to reopen. The company's stores in China were shut down in February, but those are back in operation now, with outlets in South Korea, Austria and Australia recently following suit. German Apple Stores will reopen Monday (May 11).
Which U.S. Apple Stores will open up first?
CNBC reports that Apple's starting out slowly, opening its stores in Idaho, South Carolina, Alabama and Alaska. That covers six stores in total. Those stores are set to open next week, according to an Apple statement.
Boise, Idaho will be the first store to re-open on Monday. Rest of the stores later in the week. 6 stores across those states, but not all 6 are opening next week. Apple will give masks to people that need them. You will be able to choose a time window online to pick up a product https://t.co/OIz1hWHyr7May 8, 2020
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman tweets that the Apple Store in Boise, Idaho will be the first one to re-open this Monday, with the remaining five stores opening after that. All six stores won't necessarily re-open next week, according to Gurman.
Will any Apple Stores open up after that?
Apple isn't saying, though we've emailed the company to ask for clarification on its plans. Right now, we'd expect Apple to follow state and local government guidance on lifting coronavirus restrictions and adjust its store re-opening plans accordingly.
Will re-opened Apple Stores operate differently?
Very much so. For starters, Apple will be limiting the number of people inside its re-opened stores, which will likely mean lines outside the store before you can enter. Expect Apple to enforce social distancing practices both inside and in the lines outside its stores — people will need to stand 6 feet apart, and if the experience of re-opened Apple stores overseas is any indication, you'll need to wear a mask before you can enter the store.
Apple's focus sounds like it's going to be on helping customers with trouble-shooting and repairs initially. The company told CNBC that walk-in customers may face delays getting into stores. "We recommend, where possible, customers buy online for contactless delivery or in-store pick up," the company said.
The company plans to put additional safety measures in place for both customers and Apple Store staff, including temperature checks. A Business Insider report on store re-openings in Australia notes that customers were checked for temperature before they entered stores and that plenty of hand sanitizer was available inside the stores.