Apple is experimenting with an outdoor shopping model as it tries to Covid-proof its retail experience.
The iPhone-maker’s new “Express” stores — which typically consist of a wall and sales counters erected in front of an Apple Store — arrive as the coronavirus pandemic appears likely to stretch well into the fall and winter.
Customers will still make their orders online, but will pick them up outside instead of waiting to get into the store. The outdoor stores also feature shelves of impulse-buy accessories like iPhone cases and AirPods.
Apple, which closed all of its retail stores for months during the height of the pandemic, currently employs a mix of masks, social distancing, temperature checks and appointment scheduling to manage traffic at its retail locations.
Deidre O’Brien, senior vice president of retail at Apple, told Reuters that the “Express” store is a contingency model for areas where the infection rates might force it to consider reducing service to curbside pickup.
“It’s a swifter way for us to serve customers,” O’Brien said. “It allows us to maintain all the appropriate social distancing and maintain all of our health protocols within our stores.”
Apple currently has about 20 such stores in the United States and Europe and plans to expand to 50 across the two regions by the end of the month, O’Brien said.
The holiday shopping period is particularly important for Apple, which just introduced its new iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches.
The iPhone 12, in particular, is expected to be a best-seller as it is the first iPhone equipped with high-speed 5G wireless technology.