The move was announced late Friday in a statement by CEO Tim Cook. In the Greater China region, where the COVID-19 outbreak first erupted, Apple had shut down its retail stores starting in early February, and had reopened all 42 of them by Friday, March 13.
According to Cook, it learned from its experience in China that “the most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance. As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we’re taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers.”
As such, Apple is closing all retail stores outside of Greater China until March 27. The company had 510 stores worldwide at the end of 2019. The company will continue to operate its online stores, as well as the App Store. For service and support, customers can visit support.apple.com.
The store closures are likely to further depress Apple’s sales for the current quarter, which ends March 28. The tech giant had warned investors in mid-February that it would miss revenue targets for the March 2020 quarter because of coronavirus-related disruptions. In China, iPhone sales plummeted 61% in February, per government data.
On Thursday, Apple announced its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June would occur as an online-only event.
Among other steps Apple is taking in response to COVID-19, it is moving to “flexible work arrangements” everywhere outside of Greater China, which means employees “should work remotely if their job allows, and those whose work requires them to be on site should follow guidance to maximize interpersonal space,” Cook said in the statement. All workers paid on an hourly basis will continue to receive pay “in alignment with business as usual operations,” he added.
To date, Apple to date has committed $15 million worldwide in donations to the global COVID-19 response, according to Cook. The company is matching employee donations two-to-one to support response efforts to the pandemic locally, nationally and internationally.
(Pictured above: The Apple Downtown Brooklyn store in New York City)