Google Will Open its Own Retail Stores by the End of the Year

Google is reportedly planning to open its own stores by the end of the year.

Google Inc. and Virgin America Inc. also ran a limited test run of kiosks in five major airports, including this one at SFO. Photo: Scott Beale/Flickr

According to some extremely reliable source, Google is in the process of building stand-alone retail stores in the U.S. and hopes to have the first flagship Google Stores open for the holidays in major metropolitan areas.

A move like that would better position its products against Apple and Microsoft.

The decision to add a retail presence would give Google a direct outlet for selling products like its Nexus phones and tablets and its Chromebook laptops.

It could also provide a place to educate consumers about Android and help customers that have problems with their Android phones. Google feels right now that many potential customers need to get hands-on experience with its products before they are willing to purchase.

The decision to expand into retail was reportedly made when deciding how to best bring Google Glass to customers.

That device won’t be cheap — the Explorer Edition prototype was priced at $1,500 when pre-orders opened last year — and with such a new technology requiring that kind of hefty investment, the company realized it needed to be able to introduce the product to customers directly, writes Verge.

Along with Glass, Google will have an opportunity to demonstrate other upcoming and Google X projects like driverless cars and mini-drone delivery systems at its stores.

Google has branded pop-up kiosks with several US and UK retailers, but these new stores are said to be full Google-run operations from top to bottom.

Google currently has Chrome Store-within-a-store models in hundreds of Best Buys in the U.S. and 50 PCWorld/Dixon’s in the U.K.

These stores have Google trained employees who demonstrate the value of Chromebooks and can answer the multitude of questions people have before making a purchase. Our source told us the new Google Stores would be a much broader play, reports 9to5Google.

Previously it was reported that Google was going to open a retail location in its European headquarters in Dublin, though the company said as recently as December that it had no plans on becoming a retailer.

The move would certainly make sense, as Google has made significant strides in building its own brand with the Nexus products, to say nothing of selling hardware through the Play Store.

Clearly the move is meant to counter Apple, which has had tremendous success with its retail operations. Apple currently has 400 stores in 12 countries, and it plans to open another 30 stores this year.

Recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook told analysts that Apple Stores were more than just stores, they were the face of the company.

“I don’t think we would have been nearly as successful with iPad if it weren’t for our stores. It gives Apple an incredible competitive advantage.

Others have found out it’s not so easy to replicate. We’re going to continue to invest like crazy. The average store last year was over 50 million in revenue.”

Microsoft also followed Apple’s retail lead in the past few years by opening several stores through the United States and Canada. The company opened 51 “full line” (large retail locations) and “specialty” stores in 2012, and said it will open six more stores in early 2013.

Those stores aren’t always staffed by the most friendly people, but at least they’ve got a direct line to consumers who might need help with Windows or Windows Phone devices.

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