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Wednesday, December 2,2009

Microsoft Store mirrors popular concept of its rival

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

As with Apple's staff, the employees do not work on commission, so they have all the time to answer questions from customers who may end up buying nothing.

The staff members are arguably the friendliest, most helpful employees Microsoft has ever hired. The Mission Viejo door greeter looks, and dances around, like Ashlee Simpson.

Another employee, who until recently worked for the Army National Guard, extols the virtues of Windows 7, then catches himself and says, "I'm starting to sound like a salesman!"

Microsoft corporate staff is not commenting on its stores. Apple won't return calls seeking comments.

"It's very hard for me to wrap my arms around it because what is going to differentiate it from other stores selling those same products" that run on Windows, said Jeff Green, a retail analyst in Mill Valley, Calif.

"As a way of marketing Windows 7, I thought it was brilliant."

Green predicts Microsoft will open more stores at a smaller size than the Scottsdale store to make them feel busier.

He doesn't think they'll match the presence Apple has built.

Apple now has 280 stores in 10 countries. The most recent opened this month on New York's Upper West Side featuring a glass arched roof and 200 employees on two stories.

On average, Green said the Apple stores make $4,250 per square foot, far above the average of $400 to $500 for specialty retailers.

In fiscal 2009, 18 percent of Apple's sales came through its retail stores, or $6.6 billion out of $36.5 billion. The company originally opened their own stores because it felt other retailers were not doing a great sales job on their product.

Victor Bremson, of Seattle, who was recently browsing at the U Village Apple store, has bought six Apple computers from the store, and he loves the one-on-one weekly consulting, which costs $100 a year.

"If I'm working on a project in Keynote, I will come in once a week," he said. "Tell me where (else) you can get consulting for $100 a year."

He shrugged when asked whether he would go to a Microsoft Store if one opened near him.

"We've been using Macs since the 1980s," he said. "Microsoft has been too late coming to the party."

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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