Shortly after giving up on live-streaming, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is doing likewise with retail. The firm introduced final week that it might be completely closing all bodily retail shops in a significant strategic shift, thus ending a decadelong experiment in replicating Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) success in retail. The first Microsoft Store opened in October 2009, almost 11 years in the past.

Here’s why the software program large is pulling the plug on its shops.

Image supply: Microsoft.

Four areas shall be repurposed

Like many retailers, Microsoft shops have been crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Locations have been closed since March because of varied virus-related lockdown orders, and none have reopened at the same time as some native restrictions have eased. Employees have nonetheless been in a position to help clients, together with common customers and enterprise clients, remotely with digital coaching and assist calls.

Only 4 areas in London; New York City; Redmond, Washington; and Sydney will stay open, however they are going to be repurposed as Microsoft Experience Centers as an alternative of conventional retail shops. Microsoft expects to eat a pre-tax cost of roughly $450 million, or $0.05 per share, within the second quarter.

Microsoft instructed The Verge that it might not be shedding any workers because of the choice. Instead, these staff will transition to different company workplaces the place they are going to remotely work on gross sales, coaching, and assist. Accordingly, the aforementioned pre-tax cost ought to relate primarily to issues like lease terminations and different related prices as an alternative of severance or termination advantages.

Meanwhile, the enterprise software program tech behemoth will make investments closely in its digital storefronts — which Microsoft says collectively have 1.2 billion month-to-month guests — to facilitate digital interactions.

“Our sales have grown online as our product portfolio has evolved to largely digital offerings, and our talented team has proven success serving customers beyond any physical location,” Microsoft exec David Porter stated in an announcement. “We are grateful to our Microsoft Store customers and we look forward to continuing to serve them online and with our retail sales team at Microsoft corporate locations.”

Chasing Apple

It was at all times clear that Microsoft hoped to emulate Apple. The shops had been designed to look nearly an identical to Apple shops, together with using minimal aesthetics and total structure. Microsoft usually positioned them in shut proximity to Apple shops. But Microsoft was by no means in a position to obtain the identical degree of success. Foot visitors was at all times uninspiring, and the corporate has by no means offered a lot monetary element across the section.

Apple, however, usually tops retail rankings for gross sales per sq. foot. Apple is making an attempt to reopen its shops as native circumstances allow, however the Mac maker has needed to reclose shops in sure states the place coronavirus instances are spiking.