updated 05:58 pm EST, Thu November 14, 2013
Apparently nationwide, reports vary on length, systems now restored
Apple retail stores around the US suffered an unusual outage of the company's point-of-sale (POS) systems that lasted for up to two hours at some locations earlier today, affecting the ability to make purchases and pick up items ordered online for in-store delivery. Quick checks of stores in Albequerque New Mexico, New York City and northern Virginia along with other reports indicate that outage times varied, with the disruption described as "no big deal" at some stores while others had longer downtimes.
Given that the average Apple store does $50 million in business every three months (or $50,000 per hour on average, according to figure from AppleInsider), if the POS downtime affected every one of the 253 operating US stores, the damage could tally as high as $12.65 million per hour the system was down. With the holiday buying season quickly ramping up, and stores receiving new products (in particular the just-announced Retina iPad mini, but also the iPad Air and additional iPhone and Retina MacBook supplies), the issue with the POS system was ill-timed and will likely be an area of intense focus from Apple's retail division to ensure no future problems.
There have been some scattered reports of POS failures outside the US, but no confirmations as of yet. Customers affected by the outage will have to return to the store in order to purchase their Personal Pickup items. Currently, calls to various US Apple stores suggest that all systems are back online now.