Google Planning to Open Retail Stores: Report
Google is in the midst of planning its own branded brick-and-mortar stores in an unknown number of major cities across the United States, just in time for the 2013 Christmas shopping season, according to a report by 9to5google.com.
"An extremely reliable source has confirmed to us that Google is in the process of building stand-alone retail stores in the U.S. and hopes to have the first flagship Google Stores open for the holidays in major metropolitan areas," the post reported. "The mission of the stores is to get new Google Nexus, Chrome, and especially upcoming products into the hands of prospective customers. Google feels right now that many potential customers need to get hands-on experience with its products before they are willing to purchase. Google competitors Apple and Microsoft both have retail outlets where customers can try before they buy."
The stores, which would compete with Apple retail stores and traditional electronics retailers such as Best Buy and h.h.gregg, would allow the company to feature its own products without any distractions.
Google does already sell some of its products, such as Chromebooks and Android phones and tablets, inside many Best Buy stores across the nation and on the BestBuy.com Website. Google also sells such products in some 50 PCWorld/Dixon stores in the United Kingdom, according to 9to5google. The upcoming Google stores would "operate independently and make direct sales to customers from Google like the Nexus online store does currently," the site reported.
The idea for the proposed stand-alone product stores arose as Google began its plans to market its still-in-development Google Glass project, 9to5google reported. "The leadership thought consumers would need to try Google Glass firsthand to make a purchase. Without being able to use them firsthand, few nontechies would be interested in buying Google's glasses (which will retail from between $500 to $1,000). From there, the decision to sell other Google-branded products made sense."
The Website even pointed to a Google job listing that's seeking a software engineer to help develop retail point-of-sale systems, though that job is located in London and not in the United States.
Declining an emailed request for more information from eWEEK, a Google spokeswoman said: "We don't comment on rumor or speculation."
Apple is one of Google's key competitors that has had a successful history with running its own chain of stores to sell its own products.
Microsoft also opened some of its own stores starting in 2009; they were strategically located in many cases near Apple Stores, according to a previous eWEEK report. The stores are located in dozens of cities across the United States and Canada.
The growth of Google's Android mobile operating system platform is surely a motivating factor in the company's long-term goals for any kind of retail strategy. In the third quarter of 2012, Android was loaded on 75 percent of the 181.1 million smartphones that shipped around the world, according to research by IDC. That market share was five times the 14.9 percent market share of Apple's iOS for the same period.
The IDC report shows remarkable progress for the four-year-old Android OS against competition that includes the still-strong popularity of Apple iOS, a drastically smaller BlackBerry market, Microsoft's multiple Windows Phone efforts and the rest of a straggling field.
Android was on 136 million smartphones shipped in the quarter, compared with 26.9 million smartphones shipped by Apple, according to the report. For Android, that was a 91.5 percent year-over-year jump from the 71 million Android smartphones shipped in the same quarter one year ago.
Android use has been going through the roof worldwide. In fact, Android hit 500 million device activations overall in mid-September of 2012, just as Apple's latest iPhone 5 was about to launch.
The U.S. market for feature-rich smartphones is still expanding at a rapid clip, with two-thirds of new mobile phone buyers opting for devices that can do far more than their old-style flip phones, according to a study from Nielsen released in July 2012.