While Microsoft has had retail stores across the U.S. for many years now, it has not had a prestigious address that could compete with rival Apple's store on New York's Fifth Avenue. That will soon change.
Microsoft said Monday it had signed a lease to open a flagship store at 677 Fifth Avenue. That will put it just blocks away from Apple's famed location beneath the giant, iconic glass cube sitting in front of the General Motors Building at 767 Fifth Avenue.
"This is a goal we've had since day one -- we were only waiting for the right location," said David Porter, Microsoft's corporate vice president for worldwide retail stores, writing in a company blog post. "And now we have it. Our Fifth Avenue location will be much more than just a Microsoft Store. In addition to retail, there will be experiential space for Microsoft as a company to further engage with our customers and partners in new and innovative ways."
Opening 'Sometime Next Year'
Microsoft opened its first retail store -- in Scottsdale, Arizona -- in October 2009. Since then, it has expanded to 104 physical store locations across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, as well as a growing number of store-in-store locations in China.
"Our footprint has reached a scale where 80 percent of Americans are within 20 miles of a Microsoft Store," Porter said.
He added that Microsoft also plans to open 10 other new retail stores before this year's holiday shopping season kicks off.
We reached out to the Microsoft Stores public relations team, and received a confirmation from a company spokesman that the Fifth Avenue outlet will open "sometime next year." The spokesman was unable to provide any further details.
Taking a Page from Apple's Playbook
Microsoft's new high-profile address on Fifth Avenue will put it five blocks away from Apple's flagship store. The new Microsoft space will occupy what was previously a Fendi store.
The closest Microsoft had come to a full-size Manhattan store in the past was its pop-up outlet on Times Square. Opened for the 2012 launch of its Surface for Windows RT, that store was closed after that year's holiday shopping season ended.
Currently, Microsoft shoppers in the New York City area can either visit the small specialty store located in The Shops at Columbus Circle or the recently opened outlet, also a specialty store, in the Staten Island Mall. According to the company, specialty stores offer a "curated selection" of Microsoft products.
By contrast, Apple has operated its Fifth Avenue store -- the site of many large crowd gatherings with the launch of every new Apple product -- since May 2006. In addition to that outlet, it operates 434 other physical shop locations across 16 countries, including 12 in China, eight in Japan, three in the Netherlands and one each in Brazil and Turkey.
Microsoft at one point even hired the man responsible for Apple's retail strategy, George Blankenship, to help it expand its own store brand. Blankenship worked with Microsoft for one year before moving on to join Tesla Motors. He retired from that company late last year.