Interested to see what Microsoft’s first foray into retail in Canada looks like? The software giant has announced a November 16 Grand Opening for the Microsoft Store at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre.
The company has been pursuing a retail strategy as an alternative to Apple’s successful Apple Store approach, except that most of the hardware on display on for sale at Microsoft Stores are third-party – from the company’s myriad OEM partners.
That the retail stores would come to Canada eventually was no surprise (hat tip to the inimitable Paolo del Nibletto), but details weren’t clear until this year’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, also in Toronto, where company COO Kevin Turner announced plans to expand into Canada by the end of the year.
At the same event, new Microsoft Canada president Max Long confirmed that Yorkdale was the venue of choice.
“We’re delighted to have the first international Microsoft Store,” Long said. “Yorkdale is the location we chose because it’s top-notch, and because it’s the most profitable mall in North America.”
The company said the store will be close to 7,000 square feet, and will result in 50 new jobs. The store is expected to be open in time for the holiday shopping rush.
The company currently has 20 stores in the United States, with another eight listed as “coming soon,” including another pseudo-international expansion, a location soon to open in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The first location opened in Arizona in 2009.
The stores serve as a showcase for Microsoft’s offerings, including its desktop and phone operating systems on third-party hardware, but also its own Xbox and Kinect gaming platforms. And the Stores are likely to play an even more important role in the near future, as Microsoft has been adamant that the Microsoft Store – and its Web site – will be the only two places to get the Microsoft Surface tablet when it launches.
The idea of a vendor-owned store is generally the kind of thing that gives solution providers fits, bringing to mind immediate notions of channel conflict. However, the Microsoft Store does seem to be targeted firmly at home users looking to buy a PC, an Xbox, or related products. There may be some friction with SOHO users deciding between their local solution provider (or retailer), and the Microsoft Store, but even then, it’s likely to be the Future Shops and Best Buys of the world that lose out to the company-branded Store.
When I spoke to Long at WPC, he suggested that Microsoft would pull out all the stops to make the launch a big splash, and to make it an event focused on the community at large and not just the store. “This is a significant one for us,” he said.