Apple is planning to use its retail store locations as distribution centers to ship products to consumers more quickly, reports Bloomberg. This would be a departure from the current strategy that sees products shipped from warehouses or direct from China.
Items that are in stock are now able to be shipped from a network of close to 300 stores across the United States and Canada, and Apple told staff members that this will allow the company to offer faster delivery times for customers who live closer to stores than the distribution centers.
The move to shipping from stores has been popularized by some grocery stores in recent years and has expanded to other retailers. The practice reduces costs, potentially improving product margins, and is beneficial to the environment, Apple told its staff.
Depending on what’s purchased, some orders will be delivered as soon as a day after a customer places an order, with Apple planning to ship through FedEx in the United States and United Parcel Service in Canada.
The direct from store shipping will be available to customers who live within 100 miles of an Apple retail location, but customers will not be able to choose a ship-from-store option nor will customers be aware when a device is shipped from a store. Choosing where to ship an item from will be handled internally by Apple’s operation team.
According to Bloomberg, Apple started testing the new shipping program with a small number of stores when store locations began reopening earlier this year, and has since expanded it, but not all retail stores in the U.S. and Canada are participating.
Apple on Tuesday plans to announce new iPhone 12 models and a smaller HomePod, plus there are other major products on the horizon such as Apple Silicon Macs and AirPods Studio, so some customers who purchase these devices could see quicker deliveries. Apple in September launched the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE, but most initial orders of these devices appeared to ship direct from China rather than retail stores.
Apple’s shift to store-based shipping will provide a way for Apple to make use of Apple retail locations that have remained closed due to the ongoing global health crisis. Bloomberg says that Apple is also considering converting some stores into online support or sales call centers should those stores need to be shuttered again.