Like many retailers, Microsoft Stores closed during the global pandemic shut down. The lingering question has been, when would they reopen? Now Microsoft has an answer for us—never. The company announced it would permanently shut down all but four of its Microsoft Stores, and it will “reimagine” the remaining four in a way that won’t include retail sales.
While often derided as an “Apple Store knockoff,” Microsoft Stores were very different. They offered free computer services, like virus removal, sold laptops and desktops made by several manufacturers, from Dell to Acer. Microsoft Stores also hosted free classes for boy scout and girl scout badges and anyone who wanted to master Office products.
You could go to a Microsoft Store to try out the latest Xbox game, or check out a virtual reality set. And naturally, they showcased Surface products like the Surface Studio and Surface Book. The Microsoft Store debuted in 2009, and it grew to over 100 locations around the world, with most based in the U.S.
The stores shut down during the global pandemic, but Microsoft continued to pay its employees regular pay. And it offered those employees the option to earn additional compensation by pivoting to remote teaching positions. As the Microsoft Stores closed, Microsoft Teams took off, and many companies quickly found the need for training.
Microsoft says that while the company is closing its stores, that doesn’t mean it’s letting go of Microsoft Store employees. Instead, they’ll continue to work in the same positions they took on during the pandemic, working remotely or on-site at corporate locations.
As for the four remaining locations in London, NYC, Sydney, and the Redmond campus, those will reopen, but they’ll change. These four flagship stores were already different from other Microsoft Stores and designated Microsoft Experience Centers, but the company says it will reimagine the spaces to serve all customers better.
The move isn’t without cost, and Microsoft says it will take a pre-tax charge of approximately $450 million. What remains to see is if the what it saves is greater than what it loses in the goodwill and relationships the Microsoft Stores built.