Microsoft Lands in London

The tech giant sets up shop around the corner from Apple
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Posted July 29, 2019

You have to hand it to Microsoft. At a moment when there is a certain amount of political local difficulty in the U.K., and when retail is having what is claimed to be its lowest moment for years (in the U.K.), the high-tech giant has arrived in Europe with a flagship that occupies an enormous space at London’s Oxford Circus.

The store is in a grand multi-level building opposite Niketown and H&M. But here’s the kicker, it is also just around the corner from the Apple store that for years (and it may still be the case) has been the Cupertino, Calif.’s behemoth’s most profitable store. That being the case, it is hard not to ask the question whether what has opened is in fact a me-too Apple Lite, and will it find favor with consumers?

In truth, it probably will, largely thanks to the fact that this may have wooden mid-shop tables (albeit with black tops) and a spiral staircase (fashioned from plain wood), but there is also a gaming lounge, a whole floor devoted to business consumers and a McClaren F1 car that can be driven (using an Xbox).

Put another way, this is a store that offers a range of experiences that set it apart from its neighbor and which really do look like a bit of fun. For the moment, according to the on-site management, this is the only foothold that Microsoft is looking to maintain in Europe, so if you want something similar and live in Paris or Frankfurt, it’s time to jump on a plane.

The other point that should be borne in mind is that given the cost of construction and of operating a store in this part of London, a profit looks like a very distant prospect. That, of course, has not stood in the way of Nike keeping the faith and operating its store on Oxford Circus for more than two decades.

Microsoft will be here for the long game.

John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.