Microsoft desperately trying to lure more customers to its empty stores

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Microsoft may be headed for a smackdown in Manhattan. The maker of all devices PC is reportedly laying ground for a retail outlet just six blocks from Apple's Fifth Avenue store, one of the most photographed landmarks in New York. And a glistening cube that rakes in more than the sparklers at nearby Tiffany & Co.

If Redmond had only taken note from what happens in Oregon: here's our totally unabashedly unscientific pictorial take on Apple and Microsoft stores in downtown Portland. 

All photos: Nicole Martinelli/Cult of Mac
The retail battle front isn't exactly balanced.
Photo: Nicole Martinelli/Cult of Mac

Whether it’s DJs using MacBook Pros at their openings or shots of them looking emptier than a Killian Bell surprise birthday party, Microsoft Stores have long been a bit of a punchline compared to the crazy success of Apple’s own brick-and-mortar retail outlets.

But a new report underlines just how poorly Microsoft Stores are doing as they finally crawl past the 100 store milestone — but without being able to attract a significant number of customers along the way.

Microsoft won’t comment on its sales figures or traffic for own-brand Microsoft Stores, although Re/code points out that, in some locations, it’s not at all unusual to see more employees than customers.

The company denies that it borrowed the concept of its high-end retail stores from Apple, and instead views itself as a “physical manifestation” of Microsoft’s brand — whatever that means.

From the sound of things, though, Microsoft is making efforts to up its game. For one thing, it’s starting to bring new unreleased Xbox games into the store to demo, while visitors can also access virtual reality headsets such as HTC’s Vive and Microsoft’s own HoloLens at a growing number of outlets.

By comparison, Apple Stores go from strength to strength, with the impending arrival of retail outlets in new markets like India.

Microsoft has had something of a mixed bag of success recently. Earlier this week it was revealed that, despite being free for almost a year, Windows 10 has only just managed to overtake the universally despised Windows 8.1 release, and is struggling to put much of a dent in Windows 7 adoption. On the plus side, another report shows that Microsoft is, by some metrics, performing better than Apple upon hitting the $1 trillion revenue milestone.

What, if anything, can Microsoft do to make its stores more attractive to customers? Leave your comments below.