Microsoft is pulling the plug on its chain of retail stores, the company announced Friday. All stores are going to be shuttered for good, although four — in New York City, London, Sydney, and its Redmond campus — will be turned into experience centers that don’t sell products.
The first Microsoft Stores opened in 2009, following a formula similar to Apple Stores. That meant a focus on experiential shopping and experts on hand to answer questions. Microsoft even turned to George Blankenship, a man who helped build Apple’s own retail outlets, to design its Microsoft Stores.
But while Apple Stores became an undisputed hit, Microsoft Stores just never caught on in quite the same way. That can be blamed on all sorts of things. Some of it is the lack of aspirational cool for Microsoft as a brand, compared to Apple.
Another is the company’s historic lack of focus on hardware. While that changed with the Microsoft Surface and Xbox, the company never benefits from an iPhone-size hit to build a retail experience around.
Microsoft Stores: A shift to online purchasing
Microsoft said the closure of its physical stores reflects a shift to online purchasing. “Our sales have grown online as our product portfolio has evolved to largely digital offerings, and our talented team has proven success serving customers beyond any physical location,” said Microsoft Corporate Vice President David Porter in a statement. “We are grateful to our Microsoft Store customers and we look forward to continuing to serve them online and with our retail sales team at Microsoft corporate locations.”
There are approximately 116 Microsoft Stores in four countries around the world. Like Apple Stores, these have been largely closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Microsoft shifted its retail employees to remote work where possible during the closures.
Did you ever visit a Microsoft Store? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.