Google has decided to buck the trend and on Thursday opened the doors to its first ever retail store in New York City.

The tech giant had announced last month it would open the store in the Chelsea neighbourhood of New York, where it would be “a space where customers can experience our hardware and services in a helpful way.”

The store will essentially allow potential customers to view and play with Pixel phones, Fitbit wearables, Pixelbooks, Nest products etc, as well try out Google’s other online services.

Retail store

Pictures of the store show that Google has opted for a warmer design featuring wood stools and desks, which stands in stark contrast to the clinical and mostly glass designs of Apple’s retail stores.

A video walkthrough is available here.

“On June 17, our first-ever physical retail store opens its doors for business in New York City,” Google announced in a blog post. “This new space will be a natural extension of our commitment to NYC and provide customers with hands-on interaction with our lineup of devices and services – from Pixel phones and Nest products to Fitbit wearables and Pixelbooks.”

“We wanted our first store to reflect the same approach we take to designing our products: making sure they’re always helpful to people,” said Google. “The result is a space we believe is warm and inviting, while providing new ways to celebrate and experience Google through our phones, displays, speakers, wearables and more.”

Google said that it built a full-scale mockup of the space at its retail hangar in Mountain View, where we could test every element to make sure each one felt just right.

Google said sustainability was key and that every element of the Google Store – the materials, building processes, mechanical systems and more – was painstakingly considered and selected.

“For example, the veneer on the walls is a soft gray responsibly sourced hickory, each lighting fixture is energy efficient and our custom cork and wood furniture was created with a local craftsman from Greenpoint, Brooklyn,” said Google. “We even attached our carpeting (which was manufactured with recycled materials) in a sustainable way.”

Google said that it had worked with the US Green Building Council in this process, and the Google Store Chelsea is one of fewer than 215 retail spaces in the world to have achieved a LEED Platinum rating – the highest certification possible within the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system.

“We’re so incredibly proud of the work our teams have accomplished together since we first began this project almost four years ago, and we look forward to introducing Google’s first store to the world,” said Google. “We can’t wait for you to experience it firsthand, starting 17 June at 10 a.m. Eastern, and see all the great things we’ve been working on.”

Risky retail

Google has previously utilised pop-up shops (sometimes located within other stores such as BestBuy) to showcase its products and gadgets, but has mostly relied on online sales over the years.

That said, back in March 2014 it was reported that Google was considering opening a physical shop in Manhattan, in order to showcase its range of products and services.

Google at the time was said to be “near to signing a lease at 131 Greene Street.”

And the bricks and mortar approach has been tried before, and failed.

Microsoft for example operated 83 stores around the world, which included three flagship stores in New York City (Fifth Ave), Sydney (Westfield Sydney), and the Redmond campus location.

Redmond also opened a store in the prime retail location of Oxford Circus (on Regent Street) in 2019.

But in June 2020 Microsoft announced it was permanently closing its 83 Microsoft Store locations because it found its online sales were growing and that it was better able to serve customers online instead of in stores.

The software giant did however say it would “reimagine spaces that serve all customers, including operating Microsoft Experience Centers in London, NYC, Sydney, and Redmond campus locations.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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