Microsoft forges ahead with its 'specialty store' push

Microsoft forges ahead with its 'specialty store' push

Summary: Smaller 'specialty stores' are increasingly key to Microsoft's retail strategy.

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Microsoft's brick-and-mortar store expansion is increasingly happening via 'specialty stores,' which are kiosks and small storefront-type outlets, typically located in shopping centers and malls.

msspecialtystore

On May 8, Microsoft announced it will be opening four new 'specialty stores' in May and June. The four newest locales: Roseville, Calif.; Arlington, Texas; Novi, Mich.; and Seattle. In April, Microsoft opened five new specialty stores.

According to Microsoft's Store locator page, there are a total of 34 specialty stores in the U.S. and Canada that are open now and/or opening soon. That's out of a total of 75 U.S. and Canadian Microsoft stores listed on that page.

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.

When Microsoft announced plans to open its own stores in early 2009, it patterned itself after Apple, with large, standalone stores, complete with their own tech-support areas (Answer Desks, rather than Genuis Bars). The strategy at that time was to open these stores as close as possible to Apple Stores.

With the launch of Windows 8, just in time for the holiday 2012 selling season, Microsoft opted to open more than 30 holiday pop-up stores. A number of these have morphed into "specialty stores." These tend to be much smaller, often times occupying little more than a kiosk in a mall. They offer a much smaller selection of "curated" Microsoft products, with a heavy focus on Surface and Windows Phone.

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.

Despite its continued specialty-store push, Microsoft isn't giving up on third-party retailers like Best Buy and Staples as a major conduit for Windows 8 and Windows RT. Tami Reller, the Chief Financial Officer of Windows, told me earlier this week that Microsoft has plans to work with these retailers to create specific sales experience areas for tablets, touch laptops, convertibles and all-in-ones.

Microsoft also will be changing its incentive programs for retail stores so that salespeople will be compensated for touch, 100 percent, when it comes to consumer sales, as of holiday 2013, Reller said.

Topics: Laptops, Microsoft, Tablets, PCs, Microsoft Surface, Windows 8

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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16 comments
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  • UK is a must!

    Amazing that msft have yet to open a UK branch, especially with the technological redevelopment that is going on in London at the moment ie; the 'new' silicon valley. If a msft were to open in London, I guarantee that they would easily cover overheads and make a substantial profit from the number of people that would go direct for purchases, workshops etc...
    Bassmonkey
    • UK is a must because…

      .They have turned touch into a ubiquitous interface?

      .Convince everybody that they need a touch screen?

      .They made Windows 8 a success?

      .They made a successful entry in the tablet market with Surface RT?

      .They made a successful argument with Surface Pro that tablets should be used as ultrabooks?

      Can you please tell me what are they going to be selling that will cover their expenses (because I doubt they will be allowed to sell anything popular like iPads and Android devices).
      mil7
      • Unrelated, but..

        You still have yet to answer my earlier query. For the sake of repetition (because you seem to love that so much with all your arguments), here it is again: "Define "failure" in purely objective terms." If you honestly don't know, then say so. I'm not looking for a dictionary answer, either.
        Figments0
        • Okay

          Failure: Steve Ballmer.
          D.J. 43
          • Failure? Like Cook and Page?

            Ballmer came in above them both in a list of trusted people in the US (though not by a lot).
            Guess many would call all three failures, or successes.
            William Farrel
        • You did ask me to define “broken”

          You asked me to explain why Windows 8 is a broken OS and I did. You obviously have some form of fetish with “definitions”.

          The point with all latest Microsoft Metro offerings is that their sales numbers are nowhere near the expected Microsoft/OEM levels. And before you jump (in the case of W8) to the “100m argument” you know that this is a bs number that means f.all as far as usage numbers are concerned.

          Unless they fill up the shops with Xbox I do not see what else they could really sell to make up for the expensive rent. They are still trying to capture a good percentage of the consumer audience and until they do so, having a shop will require some heavy subsidies to keep them open.
          mil7
  • Microsoft forges ahead with its 'specialty store' push

    Great way for customers to try out the latest Microsoft offerings. They will need to expand to more than 75 stores. They need to be everywhere.
    Loverock-Davidson
  • Pretty obvious that sales aren't as good as they hoped

    The move to vastly smaller stores is a pretty good indication that sales at the Microsoft store are no where near what they hoped for. Whenever I wander past the one store here in San Diego (Fashion Valley) there never seems to be more than a handful of people in the store (and this store is a large, expensive retail space).

    Maybe they should sell cheese plates and beef logs at these smaller locations during the holidays.Or aroma therapy vaporizers. Or cat calendars...
    rbgaynor
    • Great to see a local on here.

      Ditto on your view, but it don't help that the apple store is directly across from it.
      Anthony E
  • Kudos Microsoft

    Everyone who tries a Windows 8 tablet or Windows Phone 8 (and isn't a paid apple astro turfer) has really liked it. While Windows 8 is clearly a sales success (crushing os x for example) there is no doubt that WP8 sales, while the fastest growing OS on the market, could be growing even faster. Getting people trying these products is the easiest way of getting them to dump the vastly inferior iphone. Once they try it, they typically dump their apple products.
    toddbottom3
    • The famous "everyone" or "nobody"

      As soon as posters invoke one of those, we know they are full of sh!t. For toddy, that is par for the course, despite his strenuous attempts at "legitimacy".

      "Crushing OSX"? Now there is an accomplishment. Jobs would have a good laugh at that one. How is MS doing against iOS (or Android)?
      D.T.Long
      • Ditto the comment about EVERYBODY and NOBODY

        When I read people who say that I understand they are not discussing an issue or debating a topic, but rather trying to convince themselves.


        I do like the idea of Microsoft stores opening up. Hopefully they put on demos of things other than Winows.
        Emacho
    • It is a little more complicated than that

      I really liked the Surface Pro, though I was a little irritated that the camera app squawked about not being able to work on this kind of device (in all fairness, the guy who was setting it up may have broken compatibility with his fiddling - it was not an out of the box config I tried.)

      But I will say that Metro feels fairly fluid on a Surface. It is a pleasant experience. I would willingly add it to my existing repertoire of products, but highly unlikely I would dump any of my Apple gear as a result. I like Apple too.

      HOWEVER (big caveat): it is bloody irritating on a touchless desktop. I can't imagine running Win8 on a touchless system without Start8 and Object Desktop.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • Agreed. Ihave yet to see even an iPad owner

      say they dislike it once they've played around with it.

      I'm not saying that they'll trash their iPad for a Surface, though they do seen to respect the Surface as a nice piece of hardware/software.

      Even with the "poorly designed, off center of gravity, I can tell it's unusable even though I've never ever touched one" built stand in the back!
      William Farrel
  • Great news!

    "Despite its continued specialty-store push, Microsoft isn't giving up on third-party retailers like Best Buy and Staples as a major conduit for Windows 8 and Windows RT. Tami Reller, the Chief Financial Officer of Windows, told me earlier this week that Microsoft has plans to work with these retailers to create specific sales experience areas for tablets, touch laptops, convertibles and all-in-ones.

    Microsoft also will be changing its incentive programs for retail stores so that salespeople will be compensated for touch, 100 percent, when it comes to consumer sales, as of holiday 2013, Reller said."
    P. Douglas
  • Made my first vist-very positive

    Made my first visit to the MS Kiosk in Charlotte as I was there for something else and needed to buy another stylus for my Surface. They really need to come up with a way of attaching a stylus. There were a couple of salesmen and they were great and could answer every question I asked. Very limited number of items but nice there was someone to go to figure out a 920 question without having to deal with "why in the world did you buy that". He showed me some tricks. One thing I think would be incredibly useful and informative would be to having a kiosk app running at their kiosk demoing and showing how to accomplish tasks using Win Phone and Windows 8.Kind of like a PT WinPhone video book.

    MS has a long way to go but the key is to get passionate and knowledgeable people in their stores like the Charlotte one had.
    brickengraver