Taking Aim At Apple. First Connecticut Microsoft Store To Open Saturday
Jun 22, 2012 (The Hartford Courant - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Connecticut's first Microsoft store is prepped to open Saturday at the Danbury Fair Mall.
The store is wood and white, simple and bright. Blocky tables display laptops, tablets, Xboxes, smartphones and desktop computers. A band of video screens wraps around the store, showcasing Microsoft products.
At the center of the store is a support center, where employees will fix problems or answer questions customers have with any Microsoft product -- even Microsoft software running on Apple computers.
Although the store's style mimics an Apple store, it is not a complete copy. There is a section for business computing, a home center with a living room area that looks like a Crate-and-Barrel catalog and a laptop under $700. The stores will soon have Microsoft's newest product, the Surface, a tablet the unveiled Monday.
Since its hardware line is limited, the store also stocks its displays with HP computers and Samsung tablets running Microsoft software. Near the front of the stores are small red tables where anyone can test the speed of a Windows phone against their phone. The prize for besting the phone: $1,000.
"We listen to our customers, and we realize there are different segments as far as the shopper and we want to make sure we highlight each one of those stories in different areas of the store so that customer feels like we really catered the shopping experience to them," said Peter Harrington, the store's market manager and Connecticut native.
The Danbury location will be the 19th Microsoft store to open since October 2009. And there will be more, with plans for Long Island and Boston locations.
Microsoft stores are also following Apple in an important fashion: location. Of the 25 stores listed on the company's website as open or coming soon, 21 are in the same mall or collection of stores as an Apple location.
Though its minimalist design and layout has some saying Microsoft is riding Apple's coattails, analysts say its seems to have been a successful endeavor.
Jeff Green, a retail analyst with Jeff Green Partners in Phoenix, said that Microsoft stores are selling 25 percent of the volume of an Apple store at the same location. Though small by comparison, the number is nothing to balk at -- Apple stores do 10 times the volume of the average store at the same location, Green said.
"They're trying to piggy back, but they sell different things," Green said. "It has a broader focus, meaning, they sell hardware, they sell games, and they promote their internal Windows products."
Green noted that the largest share of these consumer electronics are sold online and that another value for the stores is showcasing products -- giving people a place to try them out.
But even with Microsoft's success with the stores, other analysts question whether the model is for everyone.
"Competitors should be extremely cautious before trying to emulate Apple's approach," said Chris Jones, principal analyst at Canalys, a retail intelligence firm, in an April report. "The product ranges of most other companies are unlikely to generate customer traffic at anything like a similar rate."
The store officially opens at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday with a ribbon cutting ceremony, which will include a $1 million software donation to the local chapter of Junior Achievement, an education non-profit. Doors open 10 a.m.
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