Google is following Microsoft and Apple into the retail space with its first-ever “shop in shop” in the UK.
The search giant on Wednesday unveiled the shop within a shop on London’s Tottenham Court Road, traditionally a center of technology stores for the UK’s capital. The store, which will be housed within retailer Currys PC World, will provide a range of Android and Chrome OS products, as well as the Chromecast streaming dongle, to educate customers on the many products running Google’s platforms.
The Google shop follows a concept similar to that of Apple’s retail stores. Customers will be able to comb through the store to test out devices and software, as well as attend classes and events that teach them how to use the products. Google also envisions hosting “Virtual Space Camps” for kids to learn the basics of coding.
Although Google has lived its life largely online and has a Web-based marketplace, called Google Play, where it sells products, the company has been rumored to be working on retail stores for years. In 2013, for example, a report surfaced suggesting that Google would open retail stores across the US in major metropolitan areas. After that failed to happen (and Google said that it had no interest in “being a retailer”), yet more reports surfaced, saying that Google’s mysterious floating barges might be converted to retail space for the company. Again, that didn’t happen.
Now that Google has a physical presence, one could be forgiven for wondering whether this is the first of a much broader focus on physical retail, given the success its chief mobile rival, Apple, is having in the bricks-and-mortar realm.
At his company’s press event on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple now has 453 stores worldwide and that over 120 million customers came to those stores in the fourth quarter alone. Apple doesn’t break out its retail store revenue any longer, but those venues are believed to be generating billions of dollars for the company each quarter. And the very fact that Apple has continuously expanded its retail footprint worldwide suggests those stores are greatly benefiting the company.
Google seems to see the same value in retail. In a statement Wednesday, Google’s UK marketing director James Elias said that retail is still a must-have experience for many buyers.
“The pace of innovation of the devices we all use is incredible, yet the way we buy them has remained the same for years,” he said. “With the Google shop, we want to offer people a place where they can play, experiment and learn about all of what Google has to offer.”
Looking ahead, Google says that it will open two more “shop in shop” stores in the UK later this year. The company didn’t say whether any standalone stores will follow.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.