Apple is banking on its physical retail stores as global economies begin the slow recovery from the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

At least that is according to Apple retail chief, Deirdre O’Brien, who told Reuters that Apple is expanding its retail operations in the United States.

Apple believes that its combination of strategies developed before and during the Coronavirus pandemic, including in-store events and experiences beyond shopping, will make its retail stores more popular than ever, its retail chief told Reuters.

Retail stores

During the pandemic online shopping enjoyed major growth rates, as customers found themselves locked down within their own homes for the best part of a year and a half.

And that meant that most, if not all, physical retail outlets (other than supermarkets) had to be closed down.

How did the Coronavirus pandemic reshape the retail sector? Read Silicon UK’s Covid Commerce article.

Apple closed most of its 510 stores around the world during the pandemic, including the 271 Apple stores in the United States.

It did however begin re-opening some stores in 2020, with staff checking the temperatures of people entering the store and limiting the number of people at any one time.

Store experiences

But as of 14 June 2021, all Apple stores around the world have reopening.

And Apple has decided to keep some the features it developed during the pandemic.

For example, the express counters popped up to help customers more efficiently pick up online orders, will become regular features of all Apple stores going forward, Reuters reported.

And Apple is also reportedly adding a new “Creative Studios” programme, starting in Los Angeles and Beijing, that aims to teach young people from underrepresented communities to use Apple products to create music, films, and photography.

This is in addition to the broader array of store-based classes, designed to bring in customers in contact with Apple more frequently.

“We’re looking at this moment right now as a way to really begin again, and begin again in every way,” Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of retail and people, told Reuters.

Apple has reaped the rewards during the pandemic, as locked down customers increasingly purchased iPads and new computers for working and downtime at home.

But one area Apple did not do so well was with its AppleCare insurance, which is traditionally sold in store in greater numbers, as it is easy to skip during an online purchase Reuters reported.

But Apple has sought to ease the physical retail experience by streamlining its buy-online, pick-up-in-person process.

In aid in this process, Apple re-worked many stores during the pandemic to have small express counters designed to facilitate pickups quickly but still give a personal touch, Reuters reported.

“The goal was really for speed, which is very different than what we usually experience in a retail store,” O’Brien reportedly said. “We want to make sure that in that experience that they can come in, quickly get the product they want. But we do want to make sure that we can also have a quick conversation with them to make sure that they have everything they need.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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