Prior to the pandemic, Microsoft had already begun shuttering its physical retail presence as it conceded hosting an in-store experience to competitors such as Apple and Samsung, however, it seems the company may be ready to re-enter the fray.
After accelerating the closure of its physical retail presence by liquidating its locked stock and writing off the leasing contracts for physical stores last year amid the heights of COVID-19 infections and the uncertain future of in-person gatherings, Microsoft's retail experience appeared shackled to online indefinitely.
However, The Verge is reporting that Microsoft will dip its toes back into retail efforts with its hyper curated experiences at its 'Experience Centers'. The Microsoft ECs differ from their former retail experiences in that they are further limited in their physical presence across the globe but increases the interactivity with guest and the locations features. The now shuttered Microsoft Store retail experience was a 2/3 purchasing experience and 1/3 interactive meeting hub where coding classes, gaming events, demos and seasonal celebrations were hosted, and there were over 100 locations throughout North America, Canada, Europe and Australia.
Microsoft Experience Centers are flipping that dynamic to cater primarily to hosting of business customers and events, more so than selling Surface devices between the three locations in New York, Sydney, and London.
Microsoft's reported goal is reopening its ECs as early as July 1, 2021, where it will showcase select Microsoft products excluding Xbox Series X/S consoles due to chip shortages.
Our Microsoft Experience Centers were created to provide customers a way to experience our products in person. We use these spaces to test and experiment, and continue to evolve the experience based on customer feedback. Starting July 1st, customers will be able to purchase select Microsoft products at the New York, London and Sydney locations.
-Travis Walter, Microsoft’s head of retail stores