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Apple and Levi’s follow Starbucks, Ikea with China store closures

Apple and Levi’s joined the growing list of international retailers shuttering stores in Mainland China as the infection rate and death toll from the coronavirus continued to grow over the weekend. 

Elsewhere, in South Korea, duty-free stores have closed and throughout Asia retailers have introduced policies for dealing with the virus aimed at protecting staff and customers. 

Apple says all of its 42 stores in Mainland China will remain closed until February 9, although customers will be able to continue to buy products on its online store. 

“Out of an abundance of caution and based on the latest advice from leading health experts, we’re closing all our corporate offices, stores and contact centres in Mainland China through February 9,” Apple said in a statement sent to CNN Business. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation and we look forward to reopening our stores as soon as possible.”

Levi’s, meanwhile, has closed about half of its stores in the market, although China accounts for just 3 per cent of its global revenue compared with 15 per cent for Apple.

Apple and Levi’s are not the only chains to have announced large-scale store closes on the mainland. Starbucks has closed more than 2000, KFC, Pizza Hut and Haidilao Hot Pot have closed stores in the worst-affected Hubei province and Ikea has closed all of its stores there. 

Shilla’s shutdown

In Seoul, The Shilla Duty Free closed its giant downtown store adjacent to its five-star hotel after it was confirmed a Chinese national infected with coronavirus visited the store twice in January. 

The company said it has already been rolling out disinfection operations to prevent possible contamination.

Rival operator Lotte Duty-Free closed its Jeju Island store late Sunday after it was confirmed an infected person shopped there last month. 

“We just started banning new customers entering the shop and asking the customers to leave the outlet,” a company official told a local news outlet.

“We will announce the date of the reopening after discussing the matter with health authorities and the Jeju provincial government officials.”

E-Mart also closed one of its stores in Bucheon, near Seoul, after a similar confirmation of a visit by an infected patient. 

Hong Kong supermarkets see spike

A spokesperson for Hong Kong-headquartered Dairy Farm International told Inside Retail Asia that, like other supermarket chains, its stores have experienced a spike in demand for fresh produce, along with household cleaning and hygiene products, as a result of the coronavirus. 

“In areas of high demand, we are working around the clock to restock as quickly as we can and will continue to do our best to serve the people of Hong Kong through our stores and online,” said the company, which operates the Wellcome grocery-store network. 

All of Dairy Farm’s stores in Hong Kong, including Ikeas, are operating as normal, however the company has reinforced its sanitisation and hygiene protocols.

“In this challenging environment we remain focused on taking care of our customers and our team members, who we’ve offered flexible working arrangements to, where appropriate,” the spokesperson said.

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