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Apple Store Shoppers To Have Temperatures Taken, Must Wear Face Coverings

A sign on a shuttered Apple Store at the International Plaza shopping center in Tampa, Fla. The location has been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic and is scheduled to reopen Thursday.
Chris O'Meara
A sign on a shuttered Apple Store at the International Plaza shopping center in Tampa, Fla. The location has been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic and is scheduled to reopen Thursday.

Apple Stores are beginning to reopen after the company in mid-March closed hundreds of its locations in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 100 stores, or about a fifth of the tech giant's worldwide storefronts, are now open, including locations in Alabama, Florida, California and Washington state.

About 25 additional stores in the U.S. in seven states are set to open their doors this week, according to Apple.

For shoppers, the experience will be markedly different from pre-pandemic times: Customers will have their temperature checked before entering. All employees and customers will be required to wear face coverings, and if necessary one will be provided. A limited number of shoppers will be allowed in at one time, and they must observe social distancing. And Apple says during the day it will be conducting "enhanced deep cleanings" of surfaces and device displays.

Apple analyst Mike Frazier said with the economy sluggish and millions of Americans out of work, customers may not be eager to rush to Apple to buy expensive electronics.

"I imagine Apple isn't the first place people are wanting to go right now," Frazier said in an interview. "I think it's going to be a lot of window shopping."

He said those planning to visit Apple's stores are going to have to have some expectation adjustments.

"My experience in Apple Stores is it's nearly impossible to socially distance," Frazier said. "All you want to do is to see and touch and feel things, and that's the last thing you're supposed to do in this environment."

In a public note to shoppers, Apple Senior Vice President for Retail and People Deirdre O'Brien said decisions on store openings will be based in part on local conditions.

"We look at every available piece of data — including local cases, near and long‑term trends, and guidance from national and local health officials. 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," O'Brien said.

Apple spokesman Nick Leahy said all open stores will offer customers the option of ordering online and picking up items from the store. Some locations will offer only curbside pickup.

For storefronts allowing customers inside, Leahy said shoppers should anticipate lines, which has become common at places like grocery stores and pharmacies that have remained open amid lockdowns in many states.

"Our social distance protocol means a limited number of visitors in the store at one time, so there may be a delay for walk-in customers," Leahy said.

More than half of Apple's 510 stores are in the U.S.

"Other companies are watching how Apple does these openings," Apple analyst Tim Bajarin said.

"Their approach is often considered a best practice, and other companies will go to school on how Apple gradually and safely opens their stores around the world," Bajarin said.

Apple in late April reported that iPhone sales had dropped 17% as the virus spread around the world and disrupted its supply chain. But Apple's manufacturing freeze was short-lived, with factories that manufacture iPhone in China now up and running nearly at full production, according to the company.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.
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