Microsoft will close nearly all its Microsoft Store physical locations, it announced Friday, and instead transfer those stores’ functions to employees working remotely or at corporate offices.
The move affects over 70 stores worldwide that began opening in 2009, seemingly in response to Apple stores that had opened in 2001.
And while stores for both brands are often close to each other at malls, shoppers visited Apple Stores, and generally ignored Microsoft Stores.
In part that might be because the Microsoft brand seems more functional than stylish. A Microsoft store seems like a coffee shop where people talk tech, while Apple stores feel like a visit to an exclusive restaurant.
The Microsoft stores closed when the pandemic shut down all types of storefront businesses worldwide, including Apple stores.
Microsoft shifted functions to “digital stores” and counterparts run by its Windows and Xbox units, and that will essentially be the mode going forward.
Stores will remain open in New York City, London, Sydney, Australia and at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, but those stores will be rechristened Microsoft Experience Centers.
Microsoft said that since the pandemic began and stores closed in March, its retail employees “virtually trained hundreds of thousands of enterprise and education customers” via remote communications and learning software. Microsoft says it hosted more than 14,000 online workshops and summer camps.