The big glass windows are in, the walls are painted white and the wooden tables are set out. Google is ready to launch its very own Apple Store, but obviously for Google products, in the tree-lined Manhattan district of Chelsea. The doors will open in the summer and Google says it will sell hardware and services from the location.
And with a bulging sack of products, it probably makes more sense than ever for Google to open a store now. It says it will sell Pixel phones, Nest home hardware and, of course, Fitbit’s range of activity tracking wearables. Google's also taking an additional leaf out of Apple’s book, and running training courses to help you get the best out of its products.
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Google’s obviously expecting big demand, as it says for health reasons it will limit the number of people who can shop at any one time. It will also be asking customers to wear masks and sanitize their hands. Plus, Google will clean the space regularly throughout the day.
Why’s Google doing this? Who knows, it doesn’t sound like it’s the start of a retail empire similar to Apple’s. It’s more likely that their Chelsea office has a bit of space they weren’t using for anything and thought they’d have a crack at making some cash. As far as locations, it makes sense to put it at Google’s existing office in the city. There are 11,000 Google staffers there and presumably countless visitors who might want to pick up a product or two.
Google says it’s a “natural extension of our longtime commitment to the city” but very few decisions are made by corporations that aren’t designed to make a profit. Sure, it will be nice to give a boost to New York as it comes out of a year of crisis thanks to the pandemic, but one Google shop won’t boost a city of expensive commercial rent and businesses that have gone bust during the past year.
Of course, it will be a useful learning experience for Google. If it does plan to expand, and house its hardware products under one roof, then a trial store in New York makes perfect sense. It’s got plenty of people passing by and Chelsea Market is near, with loads of other shops to enjoy once you’ve filled your bag with smart speakers and phones.
Big tech firms are often attempting their own-brand stores. Both Samsung and Microsoft have had a crack at retail stores in the past, with mixed results. Neither could say they have reached the heights of Apple’s retail experience. But, who knows, if Google can make this work then maybe Apple could get some real competition.
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Ian has been involved in technology journalism since 2007, originally writing about AV hardware back when LCDs and plasma TVs were just gaining popularity. Nearly 15 years on, he remains as excited as ever about how tech can make your life better. Ian is the editor of T3.com but has also regularly contributed to Tom's Guide.