For the first time in days after a year, all Apple Store stores in the United States will open this week, 9to5Mac reports.
Apple closed all retail locations outside of China for the first time on March 13, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company originally planned to reopen its stores by the end of that month, but history had other plans.
Apple has periodically reopened and reclosed certain locations in the United States and elsewhere based on local case levels and government guidelines. For example, on May 31, a major attempt was made to reopen the spread of the virus as a result of lockdown measures. But that was before COVID cases started to surge again. The last locations to reopen in the US this week were in Texas.
That said, not all Apple Stores offer the same mid-pandemic experience. In previous reopening attempts, Apple opened a number of stores with strict regulations, such as temperature checks, appointment shopping and curbside pick-up options.
Depending on location and other factors, each Apple Store will retain some or all of the above limitations. Apple still has a website where potential customers can go to check out the process for a specific location.
Outside of the US, 14 Apple Stores worldwide will remain closed due to the pandemic, including two in Brazil and 12 in France, according to CNBC.
Apple has long viewed the shopping experience as part of the Apple product experience; executives have talked not only about integrating software and hardware, but also about including retail and services in that integration. But the past year has been tumultuous for Apple Stores to say the least.
The pandemic was not the only factor negatively affecting stores. Riots during last year’s racial justice protests resulted in damage and theft at some stores across the country, and natural disasters such as California wildfires and the Texas winter storm have further ravaged specific locations.
Despite all that, Apple’s sales have been strong over the past year. It may be impossible to say how many store closings affected those numbers; CEO Tim Cook recently suggested that Apple’s blockbuster holiday could have been even bigger if physical retail had been a bigger part of the story.