Microsoft reopens outlets as 'Experience Centers,' Retail won't be focus
Microsoft will sell consumer electronics and software products at physical locations across the world. The software giant will be setting up retail outlets dubbed as "Experience Centers" in New York City, London, and Sydney starting July. While it is debatable whether three locations across as many continents count as global retail presence, Microsoft touts them as means to experience products prior to purchase.
Latest Xbox consoles won't be available due to chip shortages
If opening brick-and-mortar stores in the middle of a pandemic wasn't strange enough, Microsoft doesn't even have a smartphone division unlike Apple or Google. To make matters worse, Microsoft's hottest physical products—the Xbox Series X and S consoles won't be available initially thanks to the ongoing global chip shortages. However, devout Microsoft fans can still snag Surface devices and Microsoft 365 subscription vouchers.
Microsoft had shut down these locations due to pandemic lockdowns
The move comes a year after Microsoft had permanently shut down these three locations, in addition to another one on its Redmond campus, following pandemic-induced lockdowns. The company had essentially shut down all retail operations in June 2020. No retail employees were laid off, but were instead retrained to handle support for its business customers. Smaller Microsoft outlets, however, continued to operate in malls.
Microsoft cites outlet as means to gauge customer feedback
"We use these spaces to test and experiment, and continue to evolve the experience based on customer feedback. Starting July 1, customers will be able to purchase select Microsoft products at the New York, London and Sydney locations," said Travis Walter, head of retail stores.
Retail outlets won't support online orders and product pickups
These stores, however, will not support online ordering and associate product pickups, but will only focus on actual walk-in sales. It's quite evident that Microsoft intends these stores to strictly serve as avenues for customers to experience products, with sales being a secondary consideration. Since last year, Microsoft has been using these locations to host its business customers.
Google is also expected to open its first retail outlet
Microsoft isn't the only one bit by the retail bug. Earlier in May, Google had announced plans to open its first-ever physical retail outlet in Chelsea, New York by Summer 2021. Like Microsoft, Google's strategy revolves around using it as a means to allow customers to experience its physical products, with sales being an afterthought. Looks like this is the new Big Tech fad.