After years of pop-up experiments, Google is finally dipping its toes in the physical retail waters with its first store, located underneath its offices in the Chelsea neighborhood in New York City. It will primarily feature Google’s own hardware products, including Pixel phones, Nest smarthome gadgets, Fitbits, and assorted other devices. There will also be a selection of third party accessories and Google-branded swag like hats or T-shirts.
Google characterizes this as its “first” store, but in a call with press yesterday declined to say when, where, or even whether other stores could open. Presumably one might, but it’s no sure thing. The retail space here is a relatively small way for Google to get into physical stores, not a big splashy entrance into competing with Apple Stores. Microsoft closed all of its retail stores last July amid the pandemic.
The Google Store is designed more like a show room (or a brand activation experience) than a retail space intended to move lots of product. There are stools and chairs scattered throughout the main space as well as rooms that Google calls “sandboxes” with product-specific experiences. In one room, customers will go through a little skit of using a Nest hub to answer the door for a delivery person, complete with haptics in the couch to simulate a knock on the door. The room for Pixel phones will showcase their low-light photography feature.
The aesthetic of the Google Store is a sort of less antiseptic, more homey Apple Store. It’s filled with a lot of light, but also a lot of warm wood tones. Google emphasized how it worked with a local artist to design the cork and wood furniture. It’s also proud of the fact that it earned a platinum rating from Leeds for its environmental design. Much of the furniture and flooring are made from recycled materials, for example.
Along the outside of the store are diorama boxes featuring various Google products. There’s a Stadia room for gaming, another room meant to showcase Google’s living room products, and so on. Google also built a circular glass booth that it will fill with exhibits showing off its technologies — starting with Google Translate.
Google says that it will offer on-site repair for Pixel phones and product support for all of its hardware devices. It’ll offer some software support as well — though only for its consumer products, not for enterprise users.