Microsoft Adding Six Stores to Retail Empire

Hoping to get a little more excitement out of the holiday season, Microsoft announced that it will be opening six new permanent retail stores next year in several locations in the United States. The new stores will bring the software giant’s total of full time retail stores in the US to 37. If you’re outside of the United States, don’t worry: according to some rumors, Microsoft wants to include you in all the fun as well. In addition to stores already located in Canada and Puerto Rico, Slashgear cited an anonymous report that Microsoft was talking to landlords in the UK to find a good place to open its first European store. According to the source, the company hoped to get that store open in 2013, but of course Microsoft itself has been mum on the topic. But I’m getting a little off-topic here. Microsoft’s new full-time retail stores will be located in San Antonio, Texas; Miami, Florida; Beachwood, Ohio; San Francisco, California; Salt Lake City, Utah; and St. Louis, Missouri. You can check out the company’s list of store locations for the ones nearest you; the six stores scheduled to open next year are all marked with the words “coming soon.” You’ll notice a lot of holiday shops on that list, and may remember that Microsoft opened about 50 small, temporary stores for the season. Going forward, the software giant plans to start converting at least some of these stores into full-time permanent retail locations. For example, I would get that this is what’s happening with Missouri’s Microsoft holiday store; it’s located in the Saint Louis Galleria, which seems to be the same mall in which the new, permanent store will take up residence. Why is Microsoft doing this? Jonathan Adashek, general manager for the company’s Communications and Strategy, Sales & Marketing Services Group, cites the “great success we’ve had” with the specialty stores. “We’re looking forward to opening the doors of these stores, and many others, where our direct connection with customers will be built one interaction and one relationship at a time,” he noted. At the risk of sounding catty, “one relationship at a time” is right. CNN Money ran a telling photographic comparison of electronics shops in LA’s Century City mall. In several shots that were taken around 3 PM on Christmas Eve, it was easy to see that the Apple store was packed with happy kids and shoppers eager to try out the vendor’s offerings. The Microsoft and Sony stores, in pictures taken at the same mall around the same time, boasted fewer than ten shoppers – not ten shoppers each, but ten shoppers total, between the two stores. Of course, as Bryan Chaffin at The Mac Observer points out, Apple has a bit more experience at this than Microsoft. “Certainly Apple is top tablet dog, but the company’s retail stores have been packed for eleven years now, long before iPhone or iPad,” he observed. But so what? Chaffin’s real complaint is that Microsoft’s blog post about the new stores coming soon sounds almost apologetic. “Microsoft is a huge company that makes massive profits. Owning its own retail stores might have been following in Apple’s footsteps (yet again), but it was still a bold step. Own it. Be proud. Don’t apologize or hedge or couch. Prance about and cackle with joy at your budding retail empire.”