Apple Closes All Its Stores Outside China Over Coronavirus

Apple Closes All Its Stores Outside China Over Coronavirus

Its stores inside Greater China, closed previously, were all open Saturday

A closed Apple Store is pictured in a deserted shopping mall in Rome. AFP
A closed Apple Store is pictured in a deserted shopping mall in Rome. AFP

Apple Inc. will close all its retail stores outside Greater China, a dramatic example of how companies are clamping down on business activity to slow the spread of the coronavirus to their employees and customers.

Apple said the stores would be closed until March 27 in light of the worsening spread of the virus, which according to figures from Johns Hopkins University has killed 5,429 and infected 145,369.

Hourly workers will continue to be paid, and workers across the company will be allowed to work remotely if their jobs permit it, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said in a note on the company's website.

The note said Apple stores inside Greater China, closed previously, were all open Saturday, highlighting how the coronavirus center of gravity has shifted to Europe and the U.S. China reported 11 new infections and 13 new deaths for Friday.

Apple has around 500 retail stores world-wide, including hundreds in the U.S., which along with the company's website and direct sales force accounted for 31% of the company's $260 billion in sales in the year ended September 2019.

The closures are part of a broad shutdown of business activity in an effort to slow the spread of the new virus. President Trump has broadly barred people arriving from Europe. Factories in China's Hubei province, where the disease first appeared, remain largely shut. Italy clamped down on commercial activity across the country. The world's four biggest cruise lines are suspending U.S. sailings for a month.

The tightening patchwork of border controls and office closings are in some cases making business all but impossible, whether in professional fields that require client contact or hourly occupations that can't be done off-site.

Governments have sought to ease the impact with a range of measures to ease liquidity for financial markets and shore up economies with more spending. Apple said it has expanded its leave policies to accommodate illness, caring for loved ones, mandatory quarantines and child-care issues.

The tech giant reported that its revenue in the December quarter was up 9% to $91.82 billion, driven by sales of devices and services connected to the iPhone such as smartwatches and streaming-TV subscriptions. Sales of iPhones, which account for more than half of its revenue, rose 8% to $55.96 billion.

Outdoor gear retailer Patagonia also said it would shut its stores, offices and operations for at least two weeks and will reassess March 27. Employees will receive their regular pay, the company said.



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