Microsoft is making a rather big announcement today, revealing plans to close many of its retail stores. Not all of them are closing, but when Microsoft is done culling its retail locations, only a few will remain. It seems that retail employees will be able to stay with the company too, either by working in-person at corporate offices or by working remotely.
It also appears that this decision was prompted in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a post to LinkedIn, David Porter, who serves as Microsoft Store corporate vice president, announced the change. “As we look forward, we start a new chapter for Microsoft Store,” Porter said. “Our team has proven success serving customers beyond any physical location. We are energized about the opportunity to innovate in how we engage with all customers, optimize our talent for greatest impact, and most importantly – help our valued customers achieve more.”
Porter says that the company’s hardware and software sales have shifted online in a big way, with “strong growth” on Microsoft.com and the Xbox and Windows digital storefronts reaching 1.2 billion customers across 190 markets. Couple that with the fact that Microsoft’s sales team has successfully shifted to working from home during the pandemic, and it appears that the need for physical stores has been diminished.
Porter also says that Microsoft’s new approach to retail is a multi-pronged one. First, Microsoft will transition existing retail employees to working either from the company’s corporate offices or remotely. Second, the company will work on bolstering its digital offerings and virtual customer support, including rolling out new features such as “1:1 video sales support.” Finally, it will keep its locations in London, New York City, Sydney, and Redmond open, but according to The Verge, those locations will be converted into “experience centers” that don’t sell products.
So, in the end this is a pretty big shift for Microsoft. It isn’t very often we see a company make a dramatic move like this, though it remains to be seen what – if any – impact closing these stores will have on Microsoft’s business as a whole. We’ll see what happens from here, so stay tuned for more.