Microsoft Announces Plans to Close Retail Stores

Four "experience centers" will remain after the closures

Microsoft Store
The days of the Microsoft Store are coming to an end.
GoToVan/Creative Commons

What happens when a technology company goes into the retailing business? The Apple Store has had a huge impact on the world of retail over the years, both in terms of showing what’s possible and for creating an experience that others have emulated. In 2015, The New York Times wrote about Microsoft’s recently-opened flagship store in Manhattan. “It’s an expensive gamble on a retail strategy that is still a long way from paying off,” wrote Nick Wingfield. “It does not take a detective to see that the foot traffic is often light at the Microsoft stores the company has opened — the Fifth Avenue store will be its 113th — over the last six years.”

Now, Microsoft has announced that its foray into retailing is at an end. Chris Welch at The Verge reports that Microsoft will shutter all of its stores around the world. These stores had been closed as a result of COVID-19. If you’d been wondering when they’d reopen, you now have your answer, though it may not have been what you were expecting.

According to Welch’s report, this plan had been in place for a while:

A source with knowledge of Microsoft’s retail operations told The Verge that this plan was originally in place for next year, but was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X is launching this holiday, so it makes sense that the company had at least initially planned for the stores to make it that far.

Retail employees will continue to work remotely or via Microsoft offices, the company said in a statement.

A quartet of former Microsoft Stores will remain in place, albeit as “experience centers” without any goods for sale. Those will be located in New York, Sydney, London, and Redmond. And with that, a contentious chapter in Microsoft’s history comes to an end.

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