Most Apple Stores to Require Masks Again for Shoppers, Staff
Apple plans to restore a mask requirement at most of its U.S. retail stores on Thursday for both customers and staff, even those who are vaccinated, in response to a resurgence in COVID cases. The company informed retail staff of the move Wednesday in a memo obtained by Bloomberg News. Apple already started requiring masks for employees at select stores earlier this month, and it pushed back a return-to-office deadline for corporate employees. It also began requiring masks for customers in a few counties based on local guidelines. Now, Apple will again require masks for shoppers and employees at more than half of its about 270 U.S. stores.
Total Retail's Take: With the delta variant surging, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that people vaccinated against the coronavirus start wearing masks indoors again in areas with substantial or high transmission. This is putting retailers in a position where they will again have to develop policies for the use of masks in their stores, both for customers and employees. Apple is being proactive with its decision to require masks in select store locations according to local guidelines. This is a divisive issue that retailers were likely hoping they wouldn't have to confront again following the abatement of the virus and rising vaccination rates earlier this spring. Retailers were banking on a "return to normal," with in-store shoppers free to not wear masks if they so chose. While Apple is one of the first retailers to re-impose mask mandates at its stores, albeit not all of them, one has to wonder if it's only a matter of time before other companies follow suit. And if so, what impact will this have on foot traffic levels and in-store sales, which were increasing? These difficult questions will need to be answered, particularly as retailers plan for the Q4 holiday shopping season that's not too far off.