After years of speculation, Microsoft finally confirmed plans to open its first physical retail store in Europe.
The tech giant revealed that it will open a store by Oxford Circus on London’s Regent Street, a prestigious thoroughfare in the heart of the U.K. capital. Interestingly, the new Microsoft store will be situated just a stone’s throw from Apple’s flagship outlet, which reopened with a redesign just last year.
Microsoft already operates online stores in Europe, of course, selling everything from hardware such as the Xbox One and Surface Book to software, including Office and games. The company has long flirted with a European brick-and-mortar presence, with rumors of a European launch dating back to at least 2012. But for one reason or another, it has never quite come to fruition.
A history of Microsoft stores
The Seattle-based firm first debuted an “on-the-ground” retail experience in 1999 at the Sony-owned Metreon shopping complex in San Francisco, but it exited the space in 2010. Microsoft then kick-started its serious retail store chain efforts in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2009. The company now claims almost one hundred retail stores across the U.S., including its New York flagship, which opened in 2015. It has since gone international, with retail stores opening in Canada, Puerto Rico, and Australia.
A growing trend we’re seeing is “online” and traditionally software-focused companies shifting further into the brick-and-mortar realm. Amazon has been opening physical bookstores in the U.S., where it also has a growing presence on university campuses, allowing students to try out the company’s own-brand devices. Oh, and then there’s its $13.7 billion acquisition of supermarket chain Whole Foods.
Google, too, has dabbled increasingly in physical outlets, though it has yet to go full-throttle into retail stores. However, with yesterday’s news that it is buying HTC’s Pixel smartphone team for more than $1 billion, that could change in the future.
With Microsoft edging deeper into the hardware realm and now selling a bunch of own-brand Surface laptops, tablets, all-in-one PCs, consoles, mixed reality headsets, and accessories (there’s even a long-rumored phone reportedly in the works), having a physical presence is more important than ever.
“Our customer experience in our physical stores generates confidence and trust in our products and services,” noted David Porter, head of Microsoft Stores. Visitors can expect to see a range of products not just for sale, but also for show across computing, gaming, mixed reality, and artificial intelligence (AI), he added.
The London store has been a long time coming, though a firm date for its opening hasn’t been given yet.