Microsoft has unveiled a huge new advertisement in the heart of London. But this is no billboard — it’s a store. The tech company will on Thursday open a three-story, 21,932 square foot store on Regent Street. It’s the only Microsoft (MSFT) retail outpost in Europe, and one of just three flagship locations globally.
“I’ve been working on this for several years because it’s all about location in retail,” said Cindy Rose, Microsoft’s UK CEO. “We wanted the best possible location on the planet.” The software giant is trying to get closer to its customers, a project the store can help with. Visitors can test Microsoft software and games, or get some tech support. Corporate clients are catered to on a separate floor.
“Of course you can buy products here, but this is really about the experience we provide to our customers,” said Rose. “I think this is just the most prime piece of real estate you could possibly find,” she said, adding that 86 million people a year shop on the street, which is also home to a huge Apple (AAPL) store.
Richard Scott of UK retail real estate agency Nash Bond said the store’s location, at the intersection of Regent Street and Oxford Street, is the most desirable in London. Chris Capossela, the company’s chief marketing officer, said the new store is “unique” in showcasing the Microsoft “experience.” That means there’s much more to see than just software. “The Microsoft brand has become a lot more human, a lot more approachable than maybe the early days, when it was very hard tech,” Capossela said.
“Now we’re about gaming, now we’re about building the next great software application that might rule the world in 15 years,” he said. While a lot of the store shares the minimalist design used by Apple and other tech companies, Microsoft has put its unique stamp on one area in particular: The video game lounge.
Gaming accounted for about 9% of Microsoft’s revenue in 2018, and its Xbox Live online gaming platform boasts 57 million monthly active users. The lounge forgoes the store’s bright and minimalist design for a dark, black and green (the colors of Xbox) gaming den with huge screens and plush chairs. It functions more like an arcade than a retail store.
Rose, the UK CEO, said that Microsoft has two big concerns about Brexit: the continued free flow of data, and protections for its employees.
The company has stressed the importance of the “frictionless flow of data across borders” to its cloud platform during discussions with the UK government, according to Rose. Rose also cited concerns about the legal status of some Microsoft workers following the country’s separation from the European Union.
Prime Minister Theresa May is stepping down, and it’s not clear when — or if — Brexit will happen, and on what terms. Many companies have been urging the government to provide clarity. Rose said that she believes the United Kingdom will continue to prosper regardless of the political landscape. But she also said it was important for the company to be able to recruit workers from abroad. “We … want to be able to find the best possible talent in the world from anywhere and bring it into the United Kingdom,” she said.