Report: Google to Open First Retail Store in Trendy Soho

Source: Thinkstock

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is reportedly looking to open its first retail store in Manhattan’s trendy Soho neighborhood, just blocks from where arch rival Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has one of its biggest retail locations. According to a report from Crain’s, Google is close to signing a lease for retail space located at 131 Greene St. for what would be the tech company’s first retail store.

Crain’s reports that Greene Street has become a popular area of Soho, also boasting storefronts from brands like Louis Vuitton, Tiffany’s, and Stella McCartney, among other high-end retailers. The cobblestone street has come to rival the popularity of other Soho areas like Spring Street, Prince Street, and West Broadway. Apple’s Soho location is located on Prince Street, just blocks from the space Google is looking to buy.

The publication added that the arrival of Google could drive up the rent on Greene Street even more, just as Apple’s store did for Prince Street. Real estate brokers cited by the publication said that rent and property value on the street has already skyrocketed in recent years, and the arrival of the first Google store will likely drive prices up even further. The store would draw more foot traffic to the street, which will then increase the price of store fronts looking to benefit from that growth in traffic.

The question remains what Google would sell in a brick-and-mortar store. The company is not as hardware-focused as Apple and recently sold off its smartphone branch Motorola Mobility. While the store likely won’t have smartphones, Google could use it to sell its Google Glass wearable tech and Chromebooks, and eventually even the smart house devices it’s developing through its acquisition of smart thermostat maker Nest.

A retail location would be the perfect space to give potential customers a chance to engage with Glass with the assistance of a Google employee. Allowing people to play with Glass and have its functions explained to them by a Google employee who knows how to use it will help convince people who may not have been willing to figure out how to use the new device format by themselves, or who maybe didn’t know about the unique ways it could be used in their daily lives, to¬†buy Glass.

While some are still skeptical that Glass has the potential to appeal to many consumers, a retail space where people could see for themselves how Glass works would be more encouraging to customers and a better plan than hoping people will plop down the hefty sum for the device online without ever having seen how it works.

Apple’s retail stores have been shown to be a highly successful way to encourage consumers to purchase the company’s products. Potential customers are given free reign to play with floor models and talk to Apple employees about how the products can best serve their needs. Since providing such an environment has proven it works, Google would do well to copy Apple’s formula, especially since products like Glass are moving into new tech territory, where consumers feel less comfortable.

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