Apple has delayed its plans to launch its first offline store in India due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has confirmed to Gadgets 360. CEO Tim Cook last year announced that the first physical Apple stores would open in the country starting 2021. The Cupertino company has been working to establish its native retail presence in the Indian market for some time. Last September, the company started its online store to begin its retail business in the country. It was considered as a strategic move by Apple to stand against traditional e-commerce players including Amazon and Flipkart that also sell devices such as the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.
Without specifying details on until when the delay will be in place, Apple confirmed to Gadgets 360 on Friday that it has postponed the launch of its first physical store in the country. The development was first reported by The Indian Express.
Apple has been in the headlines for working on its physical stores in the country for the last few months. In February last year, CEO Tim Cook confirmed the plans and expressed that the company wanted to have its native presence in the Indian retail sector.
“I don't want somebody else to run the brand for us,” Cook had said while responding to shareholders during Apple's annual shareholder meeting.
At present, Apple sells its devices in the country through distributors who operate under a franchise retail network. The company, however, wants to go deeper in the Indian market by establishing its physical stores.
The government enabled native retailing for players including Apple by easing the previous 30 percent local sourcing norm in single-brand retail (SBRT). That step helped Apple launch its online retail store in September. It came along with direct customer support and benefits including trade-in and back-to-school discounts.
During an earnings call in January, Cook had revealed that Apple doubled its business in India in the December quarter compared to the year-ago counterpart. He had also shown optimism in continuing the growth over time.
Nonetheless, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have impacted Apple's retail plans not just in India but around the world as it had to close most of its stores in key markets including the US and China for some time — just like other tech giants including Google and Microsoft. The latter even permanently closed its retail stores shortly after the coronavirus outbreak emerged around the world.
Apple, however, appears to have the potential to get its retail plans on track as it has already reopened all its stores in the US and most around the world. The company's profit also nearly doubled to a whopping $21.7 billion (roughly Rs. 1,60,829 crores) in the last quarter as the lockdowns eased in most countries.
Cook also stated during the recent earnings call that there was a strong growth in emerging markets including India. He, however, didn't provide any specific statistics to justify his comments.