Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) just closed 53 retail locations in California. The pandemic’s spread has become as severe there are anywhere in the U.S. But, the tremendous level of spread has reached many other parts of the nation. Apple faces the same set of challenges other retailers do. Should it shut stores out of an abundance of caution, or wait until local officials shutter stores for most if not all companies with physical locations?
Apple closed all of its stores outside China in March. It has selectively closed stores since then based on areas of the country where the virus spiked. Now, has spiked almost everywhere in the, and the situation may well worsen into late December and early into 2021.
Today, there are 17,702,516 confirmed cases in the United States, which rose by 176,253 yesterday. Fatal cases stand at 318,499, up by 2,160.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, which has a well-followed model for the rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths, forecasts U.S. fatal cases will reach 502,000 by April 1, if social distancing and mask wearing do not improve.
Apple’s dilemma represents a microcosm of all retailers. Christmas is five days away. Late shoppers will rush into stores as they have as long as people can remember. E-commerce won’t solve the problem of the need for gifts bought late. Even with two-day shipping the infrastructure of the shipping system has become snarled by volume, which will delay many deliveries.
Apple will rely on curbside pick-up, a hybrid of traditional retail and e-commerce. People order items online and pick them up the same day at stores. The system offers a measure of safety instore shopping cannot.
Apple’s sales won’t be hurt much by its retail operations. For the time being, the big three wireless companies have thousands of stores still open. They are massive outlets for Apple products. None has taken action to shutter stores. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are more important to Apple than its more modest number of outlets.
Apple has closed stores. If the pandemic worsens, and it will, it will close more.