By Sarah Trefethen
For Microsoft fans in New York City, the wait is over.
Microsoft has announced plans to open two temporary stores in Manhattan this holiday season, one in Columbus circle (a West-Side mirror to Apple’s Fifth Avenue flagship cube) and another in an unidentified Times Square location.
The company has signed a lease for space on the first floor of Brookfield Properties’ 10 Columbus Circle, though the terms of the lease — including its duration — have not been disclosed.
Microsoft is tight-lipped about its plans for the pop-ups, which will open their doors on Oct. 26. In an email, a spokesperson declined to divulge even the size of the Columbus Circle space.
In the past six months, Microsoft has opened four stores in the NYC metropolitan area. In addition to the Columbus Circle and Times Square stores, two more openings are planned in Garden City, Long Island, and Paramus, N.J.
Stores feature floor-to-ceiling video screens where customers are invited to test out Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game system, and daily schedules of events ranging from internet-surfing classes for seniors to video game tournaments and classes in which customers are introduced to the new Windows 8 operating system, scheduled to go on sale the day the holiday stores open.
The primary goal of the temporary store in Columbus Circle is likely to be brand awareness, according to Steve Rappaport, senior managing director at Sinvin Real Estate.
“You could almost liken it to an old-fashioned billboard,” he said. “Unless it’s the beginning of a Microsoft Store that would be competition to Apple, selling merchandise is an ancillary goal.”
But Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s retail group, says there’s no question Microsoft is out to challenge Apple’s retail presence.
Word on the street is Microsoft will have more than 40 stores around the country by June 2013, according to Consolo, and they plan some 75 more in the next three years — not too far from Apple’s current locations.
The big question in Consolo’s mind is whether the company has waited too long to make their entry into the New York market.
“There is opportunity, but they really need to get moving,” she said.
The store’s neighbors in 10 Columbus Circle include Hugo Boss, Coach and the cigar retailer Davidoff of Geneva, but Microsoft won’t be the first purveyor of electronic gadgets in the building. The headphone manufacturer Bose has a store on the third floor, and Brookstone is on floor two.
“It’s quite the powerful location,” Rappaport said. “It captures people from the city and tourists alike, so it’s like being in the center of the world.”