Microsoft is planning to launch its own retail stores in the UK next year as part of a global roll-out of the permanent and pop-up stores it has launched in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Unlike Apple Microsoft stores sell products from other makers that use Windows software but the aim is to copy Apple and, to a lesser extent, Google who market their devices as part of an inclusive tech family.
Microsoft has just launched its Windows 8 operating system and well-received Surface tablet computer. It is also planning to launch a set top TV box using Windows 8 that will also be adapted to work on its XBox games player.
It’s interesting that the tech giants, which used to sell happily online and offline only through other retailers, have discovered the attraction of their own shops just as conventional shops are struggling with falling sales.
Apple, as so often, has set the gold standard with its stores reportedly enjoying the highest value sales per square foot of any retailer. This is helped enormously by the high margins it enjoys on all its products and the fact all the kit, hardware and software, is its own. It has also set new standards in service.
Microsoft does not enjoy all these advantages and will be hard-pressed to match Apple’s ‘cool.’
But there has never been a better time to launch in the British high street with empty spaces all over the place and therefore lower rents on offer for retailers who can persuade landlords they have the wherewithal to be long-term players capable of attracting high traffic levels. Which Microsoft should be able to.