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