Lost in translation: Microsoft retail stores not matching Apple success?
In a pattern we've seen repeated numerous times over the years, copying the superficial look and feel of something often does not yield the same end result. Over the years, Microsoft has frequently taken inspiration from the work of Apple, including Windows, Zune and, of course, its new retail stores. The record of commercial success for Redmond has been decidedly mixed, with Windows obviously being huge and the Zune a dismal failure.
Despite hiring (and then losing to Tesla) George Blankenship, who helped craft Apple's retail experience, and locating its stores adjacent to Apple stores, Microsoft just doesn't seem to be gaining much traction. So far, Microsoft has opened seven stores but hasn't said much publicly about their performance.
The LA Times did a bit of anecdotal analysis at the Shops at Mission Viejo mall, where the two stores sit near each other. Over the half hour period that the stores were observed, 19 customers walked out with purchases from Apple while only 3 did the same at the Microsoft store. This is far from a scientific analysis, but given the slow rate of expansion for Microsoft, it probably isn't atypical.
Microsoft has said little publicly about its goals for the stores, other than building its brand. The problem is that most of the products that the stores sell don't carry its brand, aside from a small Windows sticker or logo. Other than software and accessories, all of the main items available from an Apple store are from Apple.
The limited lineup of products made by Apple allows the stores to stock almost all of the variations available. Microsoft sells computers from HP, Samsung and others, and the limited space in a mall location means that it ends up with less selection and higher prices than a competing big box store like Best Buy. Without Apple's hard to define "cool" factor and more focus, it's not apparent whether Microsoft will be able to make a go of its stores, or if they will become the next Bob. What is it about Apple stores that makes you buy stuff there instead of Best Buy or Target?
In a pattern we've seen repeated numerous times over the years, copying the superficial look and feel of something often does not yield...