Is the time ripe for Google stores?
Google is reportedly planning to open its first permanent store, a 14,000-square-foot, two-level flagship, in Chicago’s trendy Fulton Market district. Crain’s Chicago Business and the Chicago Tribune were among the publications breaking the news.
The Fulton Market location is a few blocks from Google’s Midwest headquarters, which has helped revitalize the former meatpacking district. Google declined to comment on the report.
So far, Google’s brick-and-mortar presence has been limited to in-store shops at locations such as Best Buy in the U.S. and Currys PC World in the U.K., as well as pop-ups opened largely during the Christmas holiday selling season.
The move to open permanent locations has long been speculated as Google’s hardware lineup has expanded to include Pixel smartphones and tablets, Google Home voice-activated speakers, the Daydream View VR headsets, the Chromecast Ultra streaming TV device and Nest thermostats and home security systems.
The size of the location indicates that the tech giant may intend to follow Apple’s lead in creating showcase stores in major cities for consumers looking to bask in the Google experience. Apple has around 270 stores in the U.S., while Microsoft has about 100.
Amazon.com has also moved into physical retail in recent years, including its acquisition of Whole Foods, the launches of Amazon Books and Amazon Go, the opening of mall pop-up shops and partnerships with Kohl’s and Best Buy. The brick & mortar ventures wholly or partly support sales of Amazon devices such as Echo, Fire TV, Fire tablets and Kindle, but some also offer pick-up points for online deliveries.
Google has already explored a physical presence. In 2015, the company spent $6 million renovating a 5,000-square-foot retail space in New York’s SoHo district for a potential flagship, but wound up nixing the plan and sub-leasing the space. In 2013, Google-constructed barges popped up in the waters off San Francisco and Portland, ME that were designed to be floating showrooms to showcase Google Glass and other gadgets. Those plans were also scuttled reportedly due to fire-safety concerns.
- Column: Google expanding space in Fulton Market, this time with a flagship store – Chicago Tribune
- Google store planned for Fulton Market – Crain’s Chicago Business
- Google Is Poised To Open Its First Permanent Retail Store – Advertising Age
- Google reportedly plans flagship retail store (again), this time in Chicago – Ars Technica
- Will the ‘Made by Google’ pop-up shops be followed by a retail chain? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What kind of brick-and-mortar strategy, if any, makes the most sense for Google to support its hardware lineup? What lessons should Google take from pushes by Apple and Amazon into physical retail?