It is hard to believe that Microsoft beat Apple to the punch when it comes to opening retail stores. Yes, before Apple’s breakout retail stores which clock some of the world’s highest sales per square foot figures, Microsoft tried its hand at opening retail stores pushing Microsoft products. The result? Let’s just say the fact that few people remember this venture speaks volumes about its success. This is not surprising considering the fact that Microsoft’s pre-Apple store venture just sold expensive peripherals and boxed versions of Microsoft software. Not exactly a show stopping combination. Sure enough, the Microsoft retail venture fell on its face.
Now that Apple showed that retail sales can make quite a splash, Microsoft has ventured into the retail space and can’t seem to open stores fast enough. Of course, Microsoft is using retailing methods proven by Apple. While the results have not been as breathtaking as those produced by Apple stores, the large network of Microsoft stores might help Microsoft gain some traction for the Windows Phone-powered Lumia line of its partner Nokia. While many critics can lambaste Nokia for missing the boat on Android by hitching up with Microsoft, some industry observers say Microsoft stores might prove to be a key component in Microsoft and Nokia’s struggle to become relevant in the smartphone niche. Indeed, at 3 percent marketshare, these two corporate giants have their work for them. Microsoft stores can help change Lumia’s fortunes by acting as information collection locations which might prove to be better sources of corporate strategic redirection ideas than focus groups. Nokia’s fortunes are so bad that it is in the process of selling its corporate headquarters. Ouch. Maybe if Microsoft stores were around earlier collecting customer feedback in exchange for some token premium, maybe the Lumia and Windows Phone’s fortunes might be different. Maybe by selling Xbox units along with Lumia phones, Microsoft stores can help right Microsoft’s ship?