Microsoft Plans To Double Retail Store Footprint

On Thursday, the software giant confirmed plans to open Microsoft Stores in Denver and San Diego, adding to the stores it opened last October in Mission Viejo, Calif. and Scottsdale, Ariz.

While it's too early to call it a trend, all four Microsoft Stores are situated either in the Mountain or Pacific time zones, which means consumers in the Central and Eastern time zones that are looking to experience the latest products from Microsoft and its partners are out of luck, at least for the time being.

Even stranger is the fact that San Diego and Mission Viejo are about 65 miles apart, as the crow flies. Is Southern California some kind of hotbed for Microsoft fanaticism?

Microsoft isn't saying whether its future retail expansion plans will extend to other regions, nor is it commenting on the time frame for the opening of the new Microsoft Stores. "We can confirm that we plan to open Microsoft Stores in Denver, Colo. and San Diego, Calif. We have nothing more to say at this time," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email.

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Microsoft Stores lure customers with the charms of Windows 7 PCs, mobile devices and Xbox 360 games, but they launched in one of the harshest retail environment in years. Microsoft hasn't offered any sales figures for the stores, so its' unclear if they've been turning a profit, although if they were we'd have probably heard about it.

The first two Microsoft Store openings were mob scenes, but that was due in large part to appearances by pop singers Justin Bieber and Ashley Tisdale, as evidenced by the large number of squealing teenagers in attendance. Thus far, Microsoft Stores have been most notable for a viral video that made the rounds in November which shows Microsoft employees doing a choreographed dance routine in one of the stores.

Microsoft executives have said the intent of the stores is more related to branding than to profit, but the company has brought in some heavy retail hitters to lead the campaign. In February 2009, Microsoft brought in 25-year Wal-Mart veteran David Porter to lead its retail store push. In July, Microsoft hired former Apple real estate executive George Blankenship as a consultant, reportedly to help in identifying optimal locations for the Microsoft stores.

Apparently, these optimal locations don't extend beyond the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. And that's strange, because you'd think that Microsoft would be able to go head-to-head with Apple Stores in a more prominent way if it were to open stores in places like New York, Miami and Chicago.

Apple's 5th Avenue store in New York City has been particularly successful, and judging from the crowds, probably pulls in revenue comparable to many small countries' GDP. A Microsoft Store in Manhattan might not do as well, but it would certainly underscore the company's retail push as something more than a dipping of toes into the retail waters.