Microsoft adds five more 'specialty' outlets to its store roster

Small-footprint 'specialty' stores in malls and shopping centers are a new, key focus for Microsoft with its retail-store push.

Microsoft is continuing to slowly and steadily add more brick-and-mortar stores to its roster -- but with a new twist.

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Rather than opening nothing but full-service, large-scale locations, the Softies are adding more small-footprint "specialty store" locations across the U.S. and Canada. These "specialty stores" are what Microsoft has rechristened its holiday pop-up stores .

On the Microsoft Store Facebook page, Microsoft describes these specialty stores as "scaled-down Microsoft retail stores that carry a curated selection of the best products Microsoft has to offer." 

In its full-size stores, Microsoft showcases and sells everything from a fairly broad selection of Windows PCs and tablets, to its own Surface PC/tablet hybrids, Xboxes, Kinects, games, software, mice, keyboards and more. A spokesperson said the specialty stores also will carry the Surfaces (Pro and RT), Xbox/Kinect and games, Windows Phone 8, Office 365, Office 2013 and Windows 8 PCs from third party manufacturers.

Microsoft is opening five new specialty stores in April in the following locations:

  • Fashion Place Mall (Murray, UT)
  • International Plaza and Bay Street (Tampa, FL)
  • King of Prussia Mall (King of Prussia, PA)
  • Providence Place (Providence, RI)
  • Queens Center (Elmhurst, NY)

These will be in addition to the approximately two dozen Microsoft specialty stores already in operation, a spokesperson said. This is the list of current Microsoft specialty stores that "have been extended into 2013 and beyond," the spokesperson said:

  • Aventura Mall (Aventura, FL)
  • Cherry Creek Shopping Center (Denver, CO)
  • Dadeland Mall (Miami, FL) 
  • Eaton Centre (Toronto, ON)
  • Fashion Mall at Keystone (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Fashion Show Mall (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Glendale Galleria (Glendale, CA)
  • Metropolis at Metrotown (Burnaby, BC)
  • Natick Mall (Natick, MA)
  • Oakridge Centre (Vancouver, BC)
  • Penn Square Mall (Oklahoma City, OK) 
  • Perimeter Mall (Atlanta, GA)
  • Roosevelt Field Mall (Garden City, NY) 
  • Saint Louis Galleria (St. Louis, MO)
  • San Francisco Centre (San Francisco, CA)
  • Shops at North Bridge (Chicago, IL)
  • Southpark Mall (Charlotte, NC) 
  • Stonebriar Centre Mall (Frisco, TX)
  • Time Warner Center: The Shops at Columbus Circle (New York, NY)
  • Washington Square (Portland, OR)
  • West Edmonton Mall (Edmonton, AB)
  • Westfarms Mall (West Hartford, CT)
  • Westfield Garden State Plaza (Paramus, NJ) 
  • Woodland Hills Mall (Tulsa, OK) 
  • Woodlands Mall (Woodlands, TX)

These specialty stores are kiosks and smaller storefronts located inside malls and shopping centers staffed by a handful of employees.

Microsoft officials said in June 2011 that the company would have 44 permanent retail stores in place by the end of its fiscal 2013 , which means by the end of June 2013. At that time, Microsoft had yet to announce its holiday pop-up store plans. It seems these specialty stores are not included in 44, as there are approximately 40 full-fledged Microsoft Stores listed as being open or soon-to-open on the Microsoft Store Web site.

Microsoft still has yet to open its first Microsoft Store outside the U.S. and Canada. There've been rumors about Microsoft opening a London store, but so far, nothing has materialized. There also still is not a permanent, full-sized Microsoft Store in Manhattan, NY .

Microsoft has been focusing on selling its own Surface RT and Pro PC/tablet hybrids in its own stores, though it gradually has been expanding distribution to other third-party retailers throughout the world. Microsoft recently expanded its set of third-party Surface RT distributors in China. LiveSide.Net is reporting China could be getting the Surface Pros as early as April 2

One observation regarding these speciality stores: Given how many customers are using brick-and-mortar tech stores as places to kick the tires, rather than to actually purchase new Windows PCs, it's not surprising Microsoft increasingly is going the small/mall route.

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