Are New Apple Store Closures a Signal for Other Retailers?

As of Tuesday, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) had reopened 154 of its 271 retail Apple Stores in the United States and 365 of its 510 international stores. On Friday, the company reportedly said it was closing 11 stores in four states due to spikes in the number of COVID-19 infections.

According to reports from Bloomberg News and CNBC, the 11 stores that will be closing are located in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.

CNBC reported that six Arizona stores will be closing: Chandler Fashion Center, Scottsdale Fashion Square, Arrowhead, SanTan Village, Scottsdale Quarter and La Encantada.

In Florida, the Waterside Shops and Coconut Points locations will close, while one store at Haywood Mall in South Carolina also will close temporarily. Two stores in North Carolina are closing: Southpark and Northlake Mall.

Store reopenings in the United States have been proceeding slowly for a number of reasons. Reopening regulations that differ from state to state have prevented the company from reopening all its stores at one time. More important, however, is how the infection data from each state makes Apple more or less willing to reopen the stores.

Apple closed its stores worldwide in March and had only begun the process of reopening those where the company believed it was safe to do so. Some of the reopenings were limited, allowing only a relative handful of customers to be in the store at one time. Other health safety measures like temperature checks, curbside pickup and service appointments were also used.

Regarding the latest closings, an Apple spokesperson said in a statement posted at CNBC, “Due to current Covid-19 conditions in some of the communities we serve, we are temporarily closing stores in these areas. We take this step with an abundance of caution as we closely monitor the situation and we look forward to having our teams and customers back as soon as possible.”

Apple has been something of a bellwether for other retailers during the coronavirus pandemic. Along with fellow Dow 30 component Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE), the tech giant has been among the first to shut its stores. Both have cautiously reopened some stores, both domestically and internationally. It’s conceivable that Apple’s closures Friday will lead other retailers to reevaluate their store reopenings as well.

Apple stock traded down about 0.5% at $350.04 shortly after the news came out. The stock’s 52-week range is $192.58 to $356.56, and the consensus 12-month price target is $331.03.

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