Microsoft chose to open its first European flagship store in London because the city is 'hard to beat,' one of the company's top executives has revealed.
Chris Capossela, Chief Marketing Officer, visited the store with UK CEO Cindy Rose ahead of its launch on July 11, and he said there were 'very few locations in the world' that are as appealing as the UK capital.
The first physical retail store for Microsoft in the UK is located on Oxford Circus and covers 22,000 square feet over three floors.
Capossela (above) said it contains many one-of-a-kind features, including a full-sized McLaren Senna sports car that doubles as a Forza Motorsport 7 experience, a Gaming Lounge, a Community Theatre featuring free workshops all-year-round and an entire floor dedicated to helping businesses and organisations use technology.
'Around 86 million people pass through Oxford Circus every year,' he said. 'That's hard to beat. London is also an incredibly diverse city, so we can serve lots of different customers here; it's a very pan-European city.
'There are very few locations in the world that feature all the different parts that make up what Microsoft is. The early adoption of technology in the UK has been very impressive. That's important when the company is thinking about what investments to make and where to make them. This flagship would not be in London if we didn't have a very strong commercial business in this country. We thought very deeply about this.'
The central London flagship store has a modern feel, with lots of space and wood and glass surfaces. Visitors will be greeted on the ground floor by a large video wall and Surface devices on tables, with the McLaren on their right and the HoloLens mixed-reality headset to their left. A wooden spiral staircase or lifts will take them to the Gaming Lounge on the first floor, where they can play the latest Xbox and PC titles in high-quality gaming chairs and professional pods, purchase third-party laptops and accessories and get tech support, trainings, repairs and advice from the Answer Desk. All visitors can create their own personalised Surface Type Cover with Surface Design Lab, featuring a range of designs that can be etched directly onto the cover. They can also take photos in the Selfie Area.
The enterprise area on the second floor is a place to support, train and grow businesses no matter where they are on their digital transformation journey. From small companies and educational institutions to enterprise customers, the Product Advisors and Cloud Technical Experts will help customers discover, deploy and use Microsoft 365 and other resources to solve business challenges such as AI, data security, collaboration and workplace efficiencies. This floor also contains an area for hosting events, as well as meeting rooms and a Showcase space for demonstrating how customers, including Carlsberg and Toyota, are digitally transforming.
It is also the most accessible store Microsoft has ever opened, with buttons to open doors, lower desks to help those in wheelchairs and Xbox Adaptive Controllers available for gamers with restricted movement.
The 150 Store Associates welcoming visitors speak a total of 45 languages, and selected members of the team can also communicate in British Sign Language. John Carter, Senior Store Manager at the store, said the staff are a mix of ages, genders, ethnicities and abilities, and had all gone through six weeks of training to 'deliver our customer-obsessed culture' from when the doors open at 11am on July 11.
Rose also announced that Microsoft is donating £1 million to three charities - UK Youth, Raspberry Pi Foundation and The London Community Foundation - to help them continue to teach digital skills to disadvantaged young people and to support grass-roots community groups in Westminster with digital and employability skills.
'I'm excited about this donation because it's going to give these charities the opportunity to have even more of an impact across the UK. We are also auctioning 10 limited edition Surface devices designed by British retailer Liberty London, with all proceeds going to gaming charity SpecialEffect, which helped develop the Xbox Adaptive Controller.'
Talking about the journey to this week's opening, she added: This has been a three-year labour of love for me. During my Microsoft job interview [in 2016] I remember discussing the need for a Microsoft retail store in London. That's how long I've been thinking about this and planning it. I feel like that part of the jigsaw is now complete.
'What I love most about this flagship is that it's so much more than just a shopping experience. It is a destination where we can engage with local community to bring our mission to life. Whether it's teaching kids to code, training educators on how to use tech in the classroom, or showing small businesses and large enterprises how we can help digitally transform their organisation, this store will be the best place to experience all that's possible with Microsoft.'
Capossela, who said it is 'really important for us to have a place that people can walk into and experience Microsoft,' agreed that the store will appeal to every type of customer.
'I want all our stores to have a Microsoft vibe, be very colourful, human and approachable,' he said. 'These are the things we want our brand to stand for. The London flagship has some special experiences. I feel very lucky that we have found a space as good as Oxford Circus in London.'
Tags: Flagship, london, microsoft, store, surface, Xbox