Microsoft will close nearly all of its stores, it has said. The physical stores that are based across the world will be shut and the staff who worked in them will instead work either remotely or in Microsoft’s corporate facilities, it said.
The company opened the first of its modern retail stores in 2009, around the time of the launch of Windows 7. Since then, it has opened more than 100 of the shops, using them not only to sell products but as ways of promoting both its software and hardware. It offered the ability to get help with Microsoft products, in a way similar to the Apple Store’s Genius Bar. The stores would also allow people to play on Xboxes as they waited.
Microsoft has since written to clarify that handful of locations that will remain will be turned into “Microsoft Experience Centers,” rather than the standard stores, basically a place to interact with products and take courses, without the actual purchasing aspect.
In a post optimistically titled, “Microsoft Store announces a new approach to retail,” the company spells out what amounts to a profound shift in an approach to retail that had previously found the company looking to compete with Apple at its own brick and mortar game.
It notes the planned temporary shutdown of locations due to COVID-19, but while the pandemic no doubt had an impact on that sector, this was likely a long time coming. In June of last year, it closed its smaller Specialty Stores and kiosks in the U.S.
“Our sales have grown online as our product portfolio has evolved to largely digital offerings, and our talented team has proven success serving customers beyond any physical location,” Corporate VP David Porter says in the post.
Some goodish news in all of this. Microsoft has committed to transitioning retail employees to new sales and other roles, as the company shifts resources back into online commerce.
“The company’s retail team members will continue to serve customers from Microsoft corporate facilities and remotely providing sales, training, and support,” it writes. “Microsoft will continue to invest in its digital storefronts on Microsoft.com, and stores in Xbox and Windows, reaching more than 1.2 billion people every month in 190 markets.”
Microsoft did not reference the coronavirus pandemic or resulting lockdowns in its announcement, though praised its retail employees for their work during the “extraordinary” past few months. Instead, it focused on the shift towards online sales, which it said would continue in the future.