Microsoft’s “new approach” to retail stores: closing them forever

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Enlarge / Ironically, this boarded-up Microsoft Store location in New York City, seen on June 8, is one of the four in the world that will reopen—but as an “experience center” where you can’t buy anything. (credit: Kena Betancur | VIEWpress | Getty Images)

Microsoft’s retail stores, like many retailers throughout the nation, have been closed for months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. If you were hoping to visit one again as restrictions in your state ease up, however, you’re out of luck: the Microsoft Store is done for good.

The company announced the closure today, amusingly, as the Microsoft Store taking “a new approach to retail,” by which it means “not actually operating retail stores.” Although four locations—in London, New York City, Sydney, and Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash. campus—will remain open, they will become “experience centers,” where one can see, touch, and play with Microsoft products but not actually purchase any.

Microsoft naturally hailed the “strategic change” as a win, saying that online sales have grown and the product portfolio “has evolved to largely digital offerings,” which, 2020 being what it is, is no doubt true. But Microsoft’s stores, which began opening in 2009, were never able to escape the comparison to rival Apple’s retail stores.

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