Microsoft recently announced it will close all of its physical store locations as part of, “ a strategic change in its retail operations.” The company said its retail team members will serve its customers from Microsoft corporate facilities and provide sales, training and support remotely. Microsoft will also still invest in its digital storefronts on Microsoft.com and stores in Xbox and Windows, which reach more than 1.2 billion people a month in 190 markets. The company plans to reimagine spaces that serve all of its customers, including operating Microsoft Experience Centers in London, New York City, Sydney and Redmond campus locations.
The company did not cite the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason it was closing its retail locations, but rather the spike in online sales since stores closed in late March due to the outbreak.
“Our sales have grown online as our product portfolio has evolved to largely digital offerings, and our talented team has proven success serving customers beyond any physical location,” Microsoft Corporate Vice President David Porter said in a statement. “We are grateful to our Microsoft Store customers and we look forward to continuing to serve them online and with our retail sales team at Microsoft corporate locations.”
A sign of the times?
Microsoft’s decision to close its stores isn’t much different from how a lot of executives’ are thinking when it comes to reopening offices when the pandemic subsides. A number of businesses are now considering creating permanent work from home positions; even after shelter in place restrictions are lifted. The combination of videoconferencing, continued productivity and potential savings has put executives more in favor of teleworking.
As for Microsoft, the company said its retail team has helped small businesses and education customers digitally transform, virtually trained hundreds of thousands of enterprise and education customers on remote work and learning software and helped customers with support calls since its locations closed in late March. Microsoft supported communities by hosting more than 14,000 online workshops and summer camps as well as more than 3,000 virtual graduations.
“We deliberately built teams with unique backgrounds and skills that could serve customers from anywhere,” Porter said. “The evolution of our workforce ensured we could continue to serve customers of all sizes when they needed us most, working remotely these last months. Speaking over 120 languages, their diversity reflects the many communities we serve. Our commitment to growing and developing careers from this talent pool is stronger than ever.”
Microsoft’s future without retail stores
The company announced that its retail team members will serve consumers, small business, education and enterprise customers, while recruiting talent that has transferable skills.
“The Microsoft Store team has long been celebrated at Microsoft and embodies our culture,” Microsoft Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan said in a statement. “The team has a proven track record of attracting, motivating, and developing diverse talent. This infusion of talent is invaluable for Microsoft and creates opportunities for thousands of people.”
The company will also continue to invest in digital innovation across hardware and software. Microsoft’s new services will include one-on-one video chat support, online tutorial videos and virtual workshops. More digital solutions will be announced in the future.
“It is a new day for how Microsoft Store team members will serve all customers,” Porter said. “We are energized about the opportunity to innovate in how we engage with all customers, maximize our talent for greatest impact, and most importantly help our valued customers achieve more.”