Microsoft store closures a loss for Xbox Series X

If you were planning to take along your Olympus camera on your Segway to visit the Microsoft Store, it’s not been your week. Microsoft Stores were often the subject of derision compared to the robust traffic of the Apple Stores. Still, Microsoft’s retail locations were the best settings for showing off Surface devices at that product family grew (even though Surface has seen most of its success in corporate channels). In my personal experience with the New York flagship, the staff provided outstanding service.

Microsoft’s stores were launched at a time when the company saw itself more in the thick of the battle for consumer platforms against Apple and Google and their closure represents just the latest chapter in the company’s healthy retreat from that brutal battle. Of course, many store chains have succumbed to the dominance of online sales, especially during these times. Still, while COVID-19 may have represented the nail in the coffin for Microsoft’s mall stores, the timing of the closures takes away an opportunity to promote the launch of the Xbox Series X.

Fortunately for that product, Microsoft will retain a few flagship stores. Its first-party retail landscape, then, should match those of its main videogame competitors. The Xbox’s main competition lost its dedicated retail locations years ago while Nintendo also retains a few flagships. That Apple has been able to grow its retail stores into such incredibly efficient profit centers remains a testament to its exceptionalism among tech brands.

What’s next? Microsoft will rely more on its retail partners, notably Best Buy in the U.S., except that Best Buy, too, is planning to downsize its average retail square footage.

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