Updated! Samsung has long sold its products direct to consumers online, but is now taking the vendor-as-retailer route three steps further.
Next Wednesday the manufacturer will open a trio of Samsung Experience Stores in upscale shopping malls in Houston, Los Angeles and Garden City, N.Y. Samsung is tying the showrooms to its Galaxy line of smartphones — the shops open the same day as its Galaxy 10th anniversary Unpacked launch event in San Francisco — but will also carry a broad mix of consumer tech, including tablets, wearables and TVs.
According to Long Island Business News, the Garden City store will occupy 8,000 square feet.
YH Eom, president/CEO of Samsung Electronics America and Tim Baxter’s successor, said the stores will serve as a “playground” where the brand’s fans can “learn about and try out all of the amazing new products we have to offer.” Traffic drivers will include immersive 4K gaming lounges, 4D VR demos and 8K TV displays.
But much to the chagrin of retailers who already showcase those wares, visitors will also be able to purchase the products, and receive tech and repair support.
The stores won’t be Samsung’s first foray into showrooms. The company previously maintained a 10,000-square-foot, demo-only Experience showcase in New York’s Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle for more than seven years, and more recently created a combination office building and public showroom in lower Manhattan.
The company has also opened a series of Galaxy Studio mobile pop-up shops in the U.S. and abroad (photo above).
The new transactional mall stores, however, put Samsung onto a new path, one that was well-trodden by Sony. In its market-share heyday, the vendor had built out a chain of 59 Sony Style retail stores that generated nearly $1 billion in annual revenue in 2008 and made the manufacturer the 20th largest consumer tech dealer in the country. But within three years, the recession, the rise of Apple and Amazon, a weakened TV market and corporate retrenchment led to the first round of store closures, and Sony shut its last retail location in 2015.
Whether Samsung can buck vendors’ mixed success at retail remains to be seen. But like the company’s in-store Experience Shops at Best Buy and other retailers, the stores give Samsung control over how its products are presented and, supposedly, provide insights that can be shared with channel partners. They also answer requests by consumers, and Galaxy fans in particular, for “a space to call their own … where they can get a feel for Samsung products first hand,” the manufacturer said.
Retail reaction, at least so far, has been muted. Dave Workman, president/CEO of the $5 billion ProSource A/V and CI dealer group, was informed that the Experience Stores are largely mobile in assortment and showcases in intent. “One mobile store in Houston is a drop in the bucket,” he told TWICE. “It isn’t going to move the needle one iota. But if it morphs into something more than that, Samsung is going to hear from its dealers.”
The new Samsung Experience stores are located in The Galleria in Houston, The Americana at Brand in L.A., and the Roosevelt Field mall in Long Island, N.Y. Samsung is also planning a Galaxy-focused pop-up store tour beginning in March.