Microsoft to open shops in 600 Best Buys

Steve’s breakdown: There’s no word on who’s handling the marketing of these in-store shops so it might be worth a call. Try Jane Boulware at She’s the General Manager, US Windows Client Marketing and Operations

As a related story: In April, we reported 1,400 Samsung Experience shops to open without an AOR

SEATTLE, WA: Best Buy Co. is opening a new door to selling Microsoft Corp. products, with in-store shops called Windows Stores.

The companies said Thursday they are teaming up to transform computing sections in 600 Best Buy-owned locations into mini-stores featuring Microsoft computers, phones and Xbox videogame machines. The new Windows Stores, which will start opening this summer, will be visually distinct from the rest of a Best Buy, with wood floors and prominent Microsoft colors and logos.

Best Buy for years has designated space for Apple Inc.  products, and the retailer this spring said it will turn over space in its stores for Samsung Electronics Co. mini-stores. But the Windows Store transformation is the clearest sign yet both Microsoft and Best Buy are responding to being on the wrong end of changing trends in computing and shopping.

For months, Microsoft executives have been saying they were working on ways to improve the shopping and buying experience for people looking for computers powered by Windows 8, the latest version of Microsoft’s operating software. Sales of personal computers have hit their worst slump in more than a decade, and Microsoft executives say the company is working on software tweaks and strategy changes to boost sales.

Microsoft and big box stores are trying to find answers to the successes Apple has had with its chain of retail stores, where it controls the look and shopping experience. Microsoft has its own retail-store locations, but the company said it realizes more people turn to Best Buy for computers and other electronics.

Best Buy said it will continue to devote store space to products from Apple, Google Inc. and other Microsoft rivals on the periphery of the new Windows Stores.

For Best Buy, the manufacturer-branded boutiques are among its recent efforts to set itself apart from online-only rivals like Inc. and discount giants such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Both retailers gained market share of computer electronics last year, while Best Buy lost share, according to industry trade publication Twice.

Best Buy’s stock has more than doubled since the beginning of the year as a new management team headed by Chief Executive Hubert Joly announced cost-cutting initiatives and other plans to turn the company around.

Each Windows Store will be 1,500 to 2,200 square feet. Across the retail chain, more than 1,200 Best Buy employees will staff the mini-stores and receive training to sell Microsoft products.

Wall Street analysts predict that Best Buy will team up with more companies to create designated product boutiques. Asked whether it has plans to open dedicated mini-stores for computing devices from Google or Sony Corp., a Best Buy spokesman said, “We are obviously working with all our vendor partners to improve the store experience.”


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