Microsoft Closing Virtually All of its Retail Stores

The company is closing more than 100 stores around the world.

If you enjoyed browsing all the Surface gadgets (and other products) in one place or the easy-access to Microsoft's crack, in-store support staff, you're out of luck.

Microsoft Store
Microsoft Store in Berlin, one of many slated for closure.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

Microsoft's decade-long retail experiment is coming to an end. The tech giant is closing all but four of its Microsoft Stores.

Closing shop: The decision comes almost three months after Microsoft closed all its retail locations over Coronavirus fears. Now that temporary shuttering will become permanent. Microsoft's Vice President for Microsoft Store David Porter announced the change in a LinkedIn blog post on Friday (always the best day for bad news). "Our team has proven success serving customers beyond any physical location," he wrote, regarding the decision to close Microsoft Store physical locations.

Remembering the stores: Microsoft launched its first store in Scottsdale, Arizona, almost a decade after Apple launched its first retail location, the iconic Fifth Avenue Flagship, in 2001. Microsoft eventually opened its own Fifth Avenue store in 2015. Today, Microsoft has over 110 locations, all of which were showcases for its growing Surface hardware line. Microsoft also designed the stores as meeting places where customers could learn more about how to use Microsoft hardware and its popular software, Windows 10 and Office. They also featured helpful customer service and repair services.

Unfortunately, foot traffic in Microsoft Stores never reach levels comparable to the crowds that regularly fill Apple Stores and line up at Apple's Genius Bars.

A few remain: The company plans to leave open its flagship stores in New York City, London (which it opened in 2017), Sydney, and Redmond, Washington. Microsoft said these stores will all be reimagined, but didn't offer any details beyond that.

What this means to you: This marks the end of wandering into Microsoft Stores (in malls they were often located just yards away from Apple Stores), causally running your fingertips over the dozens of Surface devices, and politely telling the half a dozen (or more) Microsoft retail clerks that you're "just looking." The Microsoft Store is the first place I ever ran into a robot retail assistant: it was Softbank's Pepper robot that didn't do much beside dance, answer basic questions, and look cute. It also means you won't be able to walk into a physical location for tech support.

What now: Microsoft plans to update digital store fronts to better support customer services, learning, and, obviously, product purchases. To make things more personal, it'll invest in more one-on-one video support and sales solutions.

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