Microsoft has announced gleefully that it is to open two flagship Microsoft retail stores. The first will open on Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street in New York at 12.00 on 26th October, with queuing starting at 06.00am and the opening ceremony at 11.30am. The second at Westfield Sydney on Pitt Street Mall on November 12th with a similar opening time, but perhaps as the weather is more clement the official queue opening time is 10pm the night before.
This news will be a disappointment to the many Microsoft devotees in London who had been hoping to be the first store to be opened outside of the US. In fact there are no signs that this will happen as Microsoft dissolved Microsoft Retail Store – United Kingdom Limited in July 2014 and there is no sign that it will be resurrected.
These are both to be large flagship stores and have taken six years to design according to the blog post. They are clearly designed along similar lines to the Apple Stores that have been so successful with a few new features with which Microsoft will hope to wow and woo new customers.
Two of the announced areas will be an Answer Desk “a one-stop shop for technical questions, troubleshooting and repairs regardless of device or where it was purchased”. The second is a Community Theatre- “a space where customers can learn how to use Microsoft’s latest and most popular products in their everyday work and lives, and immersive video walls throughout.”
This is not the first time Microsoft has done this. It’s first few stores in the US were also designed to look like Apple stores with staff wearing coloured shirts to denote what they could help with. Initial customer numbers were far lower than Microsoft had hoped and a visit in the first week of the Mission Viejo store gave the impression of lots of lonely staff. The use of the coloured shirts also led one highly experienced UK journalist to comment: “It looks like something out of the Stepford Wives.”
Unfortunately for Microsoft, their US openings, especially the one in Mission Viejo were marred by continued problems with their card payment systems. International customers in particular found that it would take as many as 8 attempts to get a payment to go through although the problem was later traced not to the payment provider but Microsoft’s own store software.
The tone of the blog indicates that they will be “customer first” though the proof will be in the customer service experience that people get when they open. Both locations will cater to tourists as well as locals especially in New York.
Microsoft have clearly employed the staff already as they know that people from 5 of the New York boroughs speaking more than 21 languages will be working in New York and there will be more than 19 languages spoken in Sydney with staff sourced from 11 different countries.
The New York store is huge, 22,269 square foot in what used to be a Fendi store and has at least six floors above ground though whether these will all be open to the public is unknown. The Sydney store is smaller, 6,000 square feet (500 square metres) and will be over two floors
The big question is what the stores will be selling and with an announcement due on October 6th in which Microsoft promises “We have some exciting new to share”, a number of bloggers are guessing what will be announced…
(Next: We have some exciting new to share)