Apple has just unveiled its plans for re-opening all 32 Apple Stores in England, and one in Northern Ireland on Monday, 15 June.
Although much of the experience will be similar to how it was, there will also be significant changes.
In a statement provided exclusively to The Independent, Apple said: “We're excited to begin welcoming visitors back to our stores in England and Northern Ireland on Monday. We’ve missed our customers and look forward to offering our support.
“With many working and learning from home we look forward to providing the service and support they need, whether that be picking up a new product or getting help with one they already own. Our newly reopened stores have significant safety procedures including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings to ensure customers and employees continue to stay healthy. 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. For more ways to shop and additional information on these new guidelines and store hours, please visit apple.com/retail.
“Our thoughts are with everyone affected by COVID-19 and those working around the clock to treat, study and contain its spread.”
In other words, although customers will still be welcomed to choose and buy as before, the main emphasis will be on service, with the Genius Bar ready to sort issues with products, offer advice and more. Some customers may have dropped product off for repair before the crisis hit: they’ll now be able to get them back as soon as they’re ready.
Genius Bar appointments are being made available through the Apple website as before but there will be walk-in sessions, too: apple.com/uk will have the details.
On arriving at the Apple Store, customers will have their temperature taken by a member of staff, using a non-contact thermometer that will be used.
Although different countries have their own advice on aspects such as the level of social distancing, Apple is implementing a two-metre policy throughout its stores worldwide.
It is also mandatory for customers to wear masks when in the Store – they’ll be provided for customers without them. Staff will also be wearing masks at all times. And there will be hand sanitiser available instore.
Products will still be on display as before, but routine cleaning will be augmented by frequent, rigorous deep-clean operations. Though customers will be welcomed to buy products, they’ll also be encouraged to buy online and have them delivered, or buy online and pick up instore.
The focus is adamantly on the safety of customers and staff. Numbers of visitors at a time will be carefully controlled, and staff numbers adjusted to ensure the same level of service as ever.
The only aspects of Apple Store life that will be missing, for now, will be the Today at Apple sessions, and the business briefings which Apple previously had in its stores’ Boardrooms. These will return, doubtless, when conditions permit.
Apple has said that opening hours will vary by store and will be reduced to begin with. Details of store hours will be on the website at apple.com/retail/storelist/.
Throughout, Apple says it’s following government guidance – which could mean stores could close again if the health situation worsens. Similarly, if between now and Monday, government guidance changes, then it’s possible the re-opening will be modified, too.
The remaining five UK Apple Stores in Scotland and Wales are planned to re-open when restrictions in those countries allow.
Apple’s stores have already re-opened in places including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, the US, Canada, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and France.
It’s clear from this that Apple has recognised a demand for its stores, and it obviously wants to be able to sell stuff instore again. After all, since the lockdown, Apple has released a new iPhone, the iPhone SE, a new MacBook Pro, an updated MacBook Air and a new iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard accessory, not to mention the latest Spring and Summer iPhone cases and Apple Watch straps.
Even so, the focus on service from the Genius Bar seems to be front-and-centre in the company’s intentions.