Shifting strategy Microsoft closed all its Specialty Stores and kiosks in the US

What you need to know

  • Microsoft has closed all its Specialty Stores in the US.
  • 17 kiosks were closed in malls, down from a peak of 34 in 2013.
  • Over 80 full-retail stores remain.
  • No retail stores have closed.

Microsoft is on the cusp of finally opening its flagship retail store in the UK on July 11, but all of the smaller Microsoft Specialty Stores have evidently been shuttered with many reportedly closing this past weekend.

As of June 2019, Microsoft has just over 80 full-fledged Microsoft Stores in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Australia, but 17 of the smaller kiosks and so-called specialty stores have now been removed. Indeed, all the specialty stores are now gone implying a planned shift in retail strategy.

A standard Microsoft Specialty Store. Image via Bing Maps.

A standard Microsoft Specialty Store. Image via Bing Maps.

Comparing Microsoft's store locator today to the Internet Way Back Machine it's evident which locations are affected:

  • Brea, Brea Mall, CA
  • Glendale, Glendale Galleria, CA
  • Roseville, Westfield Galleria at Roseville, CA (2017)
  • Broomfield, FlatIron Crossing, CO
  • Denver, Cherry Creek Mall, CO
  • Des Moines, Jordan Creek Town Ctr, IA
  • Chicago, Shops at North Bridge, IL (2017)
  • Lexington, Fayette Mall, KY
  • Louisville, Oxmoor Center, KY
  • South Portland, The Maine Mall, MA
  • Columbia, The Mall in Columbia, MD
  • New York, Time Warner Center - The Shops at Columbus Circle, NY (2017)
  • Portland, Washington Square, OR
  • Pittsburgh, Ross Park Mall, PA
  • Providence, Providence Place, RI (2017)
  • Knoxville, West Town Mall, TN
  • San Antonio, North Star Mall, TX
  • Murray, Fashion Place Mall, UT
  • Lynnwood, Alderwood, WA
  • Seattle, Pacific Place, WA (2017)
  • Seattle, Westfield Southcenter, WA
  • Wauwatosa, Mayfair, WI

Five of those locations closed in 2017. Going back to 2013 Cnet reported there were 34 Specialty Stores at the time, strongly suggesting this has been a trend for many years now.

This week's closures mean Maine, Kentucky, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin no longer any Microsoft retail presence.

Out of all the locations since 2017 only one full-fledged store – located in Bethesda, Westfield Montgomery, Maryland – has shut down. (Microsoft has said this store is not closed)

Update 4:30 PM ET: Microsoft, via Cnet, has released a statement confirming the news:

After careful discussion and evaluation, we've made the decision to close our specialty store locations. We are focused on delivering great experiences throughout the customer journey. We will continue to connect with and empower our customers to achieve more and discover all that's possible with Microsoft through Microsoft Store across the globe online and in our physical stores in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia, and coming soon to the U.K. We look forward to continuing to showcase a robust lineup of products and services at our full line and flagship stores, providing the space and support for us to deliver experiences that our customers are excited about.

Microsoft retail our take

Microsoft's Specialty Stores were always odd destinations. Located in malls, which have been steadily declining in the United States due to strong online retail sales they also seemed like temporary fixtures. Focusing on "curated" Microsoft products – especially Surface, and at one time Windows Phone – these specialty stores tended to be significantly smaller than the full retail experience with little partner participation.

Many kiosks also presumably served as experiments to see if the foot traffic warranted opening a full store, something that takes years.

Though the small retail concept started in 2009 and grew from there Microsoft has been focusing more on more substantial, flagship stores in New York, California, Boston, and now London (rumored since 2012) that also double as training centers for new customers.

Likewise, Best Buy has been an important Microsoft partner with all its significant stores having a dedicated Windows PC section. Best Buy has managed to outlast many malls as standalone stores, and when considering the rent-free aspect for Microsoft, it makes sense to focus attention there.

The new Microsoft Store hits Oxford Circus on July 11, 2019, packing 21,932 square feet across three floors of Surface, Windows, Xbox, HoloLens, and more. Windows Central will be there for the opening.

Thanks, Alex R., for the tip!

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.