Apple says ‘a few’ US retail stores could reopen in May

Apple expects to start reopening more of its stores in May, after shutting down locations outside of China due to the coronavirus pandemic. Stores in Australia and Austria could reopen in the next two weeks, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Bloomberg. “A few” stores could reopen in the US in the first half of May as well, Cook added, but “not a large number.”

The decisions will be made location by location, “depending on the circumstances in that particular place,” Cook said. Apple has 458 stores outside of China, according to Bloomberg.

Apple closed all stores outside of Greater China in March and has since said stores will stay closed “until further notice”. Apple reopened a single store in South Korea in mid-April, but it hadn’t previously announced specific reopening plans beyond that.

Earlier this week, Apple’s retail chief Deirdre O’Brien said she expected to reopen “many more” stores in May, according to Bloomberg. Apple initially closed all retail stores in China, where the pandemic hit earlier, in February, but it was able to reopen those locations in the middle of March.

The store closures have presented obvious problems for Apple and its customers. Beyond the lack of sales, it’s also disrupted one of Apple’s key customer service offerings: a place where customers can get repairs or devices set up, usually fairly quickly. For the time being, some customers have repaired devices stuck inside the stores that they’re unable to retrieve due to the closures.

Store closures have meant a hit to Apple’s Apple Care business, too, and Cook said more customers have started shopping online. He’s not sure that shift to online shopping will last, though. “Whether that’s a permanent shift, I would hesitate to go that far,” Cook said on an earnings call this afternoon. “I think people like to be out and about, they just know that now is not the time to do that.”

Apple also expects to keep its Cupertino headquarters closed until at least early June, Cook told Bloomberg. When it reopens, the company plans to have temperature checks, social distancing and mask requirements, and potentially testing for employees.

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