Google retail stores?

A recent report by Seth Weintraub in 9To5Google claims that Google might be planning to start standalone retail stores in the United States this year. These stores will first be open in metropolitan areas around the holidays.

Seth notes that Google is working on these stores as it aims to release Google Glass to the public. These stores reportedly will not only be used to sell Google Glass but also other devices like Nexus phones, tablets, Chromebooks and accessories.

In the last couple of years, Google has entered in hardware in a big way, it even manufactured one device by itself – Nexus Q, although it never reached retail market but it was a big step for the company. With all this hardware, having a retail presence makes sense and in fact is required.

Consumers want to experience devices, touch them before throwing their money at them. Online retail model works as long as there is an offline model.

This is not Google’s first attempt in retail sector but all the previous attempts have been a failure for the company. Be it the Nexus One sales debacle – when hardly anyone purchased the smartphone from Google’s web store. The recent Nexus 4 sales from Google Play aren’t any better. This time, there were actually people to purchase the smartphone, but Google’s inexperience with retail resulted in lack of stock for over two months since the smartphone launch.

Google even operates several pop-up stores in top US and UK retail locations, where trained employees show off Chromebooks, but in no way, this is a full-fledged retail operation. Neither Google maintains sales nor the inventory in these pop-up stores.

Given all the attempts by Google in retail sector so far, we aren’t really optimistic about the future of these Google retail stores. If Google really wants something like Apple stores, it really needs to work on its retail skills. Hire people who actually know something about selling products. It needs to have better customer care teams, because the current state is just pathetic and online forums are filled with users complaining about them. It has to create an infrastructure, and think of the longer run.

These alleged Google retail stores can be a great asset to the search giant but they first need to be set up properly. If as a consumer, I go to one of these stores after the next Nexus launch, and don’t find the product in stock, Google would have failed me and itself.

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