Apple's retail storefronts could remain shuttered longer than the company originally expected.
On Saturday, Apple had announced the closure of all of its stores outside China but said they would re-open in two weeks, on March 27.
Something appears to have changed the company's outlook, however. With the number of global cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus now surpassing 200,000, Apple has posted a message at the top of its Apple.com home page that states, "Our retail stores are closed until further notice."
In the previous statement posted on Apple's website, on Saturday, CEO Tim Cook said the company is looking to learn from the lessons of the COVID-19 outbreak in China--where efforts to contain the spread have improved conditions enough to reopen all Apple stores in the country.
"One of those lessons is that the most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance. As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we’re taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers," Cook said in the statement.
Apple said in that statement that it would continue to pay hourly workers during the retail store shutdown, said it has "expanded our leave policies to accommodate personal or family health circumstances created by COVID-19." Other employees "should work remotely if their job allows," Cook said.
CRN has reached out to Apple to ask if anything has changed with the possible extension of the store shutdown beyond March 27, such as whether hourly workers will still continue to be paid. Apple reportedly has more than 500 stores worldwide, with half of those in the U.S.
The disclosure comes even as Apple continues to seek to expand its business, launching updated models of the iPad Pro and MacBook Air on Wednesday. The devices are available to order today online.
In February, Apple was among the first companies to reduce its revenue outlook as a result of the coronavirus. The outbreak--which last week was deemed a pandemic by the World Health Organization--took an early toll on Apple because of the company's emphasis on production and sales in China.
"As Apple and Cook saw firsthand in China, reducing density and maximizing social distance was the smart move they did throughout China during the outbreak in January/February and now all those stores are back open as of yesterday across mainland China," wrote Daniel Ives, managing director for equity research at Wedbush Securities, in a note to investors on Saturday.
"Clearly closing Apple stores will have a further negative impact on the March quarter and potentially the June quarter depending on how long they stay closed, but at this point we believe investors are starting to look past these anomalous 3-6 months towards a more normalized FY21 valuation framework when it comes to the stock," he wrote.
Last Friday, Apple said its flagship WWDC developer conference in June is going virtual. The firm said that the conference will "take on an entirely new online format packed with content for consumers, press and developers alike."