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Apple details retail changes in global store reopening plans

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Apple has published details of how it intends to open up its stores to the public in a letter from retail chief Deirdre O'Brien, one that explains the iPhone maker's approach to reopening its stores and some of the extra measures its retail outlets will take in a few locations.

In a letter published on Sunday, O'Brien recounts Apple's response to COVID-19 so far, including its sourcing of more than 30 million masks and creation of over 10 million face shields, the design of software to help check for symptoms, and partnerships with US producers to deploy more than a million testing kits per week.

Part of its response was to close nearly all of its retail outlets globally. So far, Apple has been able to open up nearly 100 stores, with more planned for the future.

The letter attempts to share about how Apple is "carrying forward our commitment to care," including how it is affecting its decision-making, steps to keep stores safe, and how stores will look differently to its customers.

For store opening, Apple is "confident we can safely return to serving customers from our stores," with decisions on reopenings made using a variety of data, including local cases, near and long-term trends, and official guidance. "These are not decisions we rush into - and a store opening in no way means that we won't take the preventative step of closing it again should local conditions warrant," writes O'Brien.

Customers can check if their local store is reopening via the Find a Store search tool, and when they turn up at the outlet, O'Brien warns "you'll find yourself with plenty of space." Stores will have limited occupancy, with a renewed focus on "one-to-one, personalized service at the Genius Bar and throughout the store."

Face coverings will be required for both staff members and customers, with Apple providing masks if customers don't bring their own. Temperature checks and health questions will be made at the door, including screening for people who may have symptoms like a cough or fever, or who may have been exposed to someone infected with the virus.

"Throughout the day, we're conducting enhanced deep cleanings that place special emphasis on all surfaces, display products, and highly trafficked areas," the retail chief adds.

For many stores, there will be the opportunity to take advantage of curbside pick-up and drop-off, including shipping products to a store for collection if a home delivery is inconvenient. "And you can continue to find the same excellent standard of customer service and support online and over the phone to help you with any questions you might have."

The letter signs off by looking to the future, with O'Brien reminding the reader "The response to COVID-19 is still ongoing, and we recognize that the road back will have its twists and turns. But whatever challenges lie ahead, COVID-19 has only reinforced our faith in people - in our teams, in our customers, in our communities."

The letter then offers thanks for support in the coronavirus response, "whether that's volunteering, donating, sharing gratitude for our medical workers, or maintaining social distance to protect the health of our communities."