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Manufacturers Rolling Out New Retail Formats

SAN DIEGO — In the wake of Samsung’s planned launch of branded mobile shops within all Best Buy stores, rumors of freestanding Google Stores resurfaced and Sony and Microsoft announced some retail rollouts of their own.

While similarly diminutive at less than 1,000 square feet, the latter two formats are freestanding mall shops that are unaffiliated with any traditional retail showrooms.

One of the prototypes, embraced by both Sony and Microsoft, is a pop-up mini store that will complement the companies’ larger retail showrooms.

The other, being developed by Sony, is a tightly edited boutique concept that is expected to debut this fall.

Microsoft, as well as retailers including Target and Walmart, has employed the pop-up or temporary store concept to extend its presence to urban and other areas during seasonal events where zoning, real estate and cost wouldn’t permit a traditional, full-size storefront.

Sony is calling its pop-up shops Gallery, and is providing them with a highly curated assortment of Vaio computers, digital imaging, personal audio and TVs. The kiosks carry some smaller-SKU inventory in drawers for the cash-and-carry crowd, while larger items can be ordered.

The first Sony Gallery, a 135-square-foot canopied space, opened last week in a central court of the Westfield UTC Mall here near a Tiffany’s, and two more shops are slated to open in New Jersey and San Francisco next month. Additional Gallery locations are being planned in shopping centers across the country, the company said.

Microsoft’s version, which it has variously described as “pop-up” and “specialty” stores, similarly feature a tightly edited selection of Microsoft products including Surface PCs, Windows smartphones and Xbox gaming systems.

The software maker said it rolled out five more mini stores this month, bringing the number of micro shops to 33 nationwide.

The mostly mall-based specialty stores have an open, kiosk-like format, allowing them to be quickly set up and broken down to support product launches or other special events.

Microsoft has employed the temporary shops during the holiday season, having opened 34 locations last October, some of which are still in operation.

“By expanding our retail footprint, we have the opportunity to bring Microsoft products and a premium retail experience to life by continuing to offer the choice, value and service our customers have come to expect from the [flagship] Microsoft Store,” noted communications strategy general manager Jonathan Adashek.

The new shops are located in shopping malls in Elmhurst, N.Y.; Tampa, Fla.; King of Prussia, Pa.; Murray, Utah; and Providence, R.I.

Sony will also debut a new boutique format this fall that will feature its most popular TVs, cameras, computers, audio products and support services, a spokesperson told TWICE. The first boutique is expected to be less than 1,000 square feet, and may mirror prior in-mall Sony Style Store incarnations, albeit within a smaller footprint.

“We’re creating a new way to shop for consumer electronics,” said Mike Fasulo, Sony’s sales operations executive VP. “People expect the best from Sony, and we want to exceed their expectations by providing a personal, memorable shopping experience to all of our guests, that keeps them and their families coming back again and again.”

Meanwhile, Google may be planning to open its first freestanding retail stores by the holiday season, blog site 9to5Google reported. The strategy: to roll out branded boutiques in major metro areas to demonstrate and sell Chromebooks, Nexus phones and tabs, and its Google Glass eyewear computers directly to consumers.