I guess it’s finally happening. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal Google is preparing to launch its own branded retail stores in the US market:
Google has been developing plans to launch retail stores in the U.S., said people familiar with the matter, in another sign the company is studying Apple ‘s playbook for building a consumer-electronics brand.
The stores would likely sell Google-branded hardware, these people said. But it isn’t clear when or where any stores would open, and one of the people said the Internet giant might not move forward with the plan this year.
This is something that Google has flirted with multiple times in the past couple of years, opening seasonal pop-up stores and maintaining “store within a store” displays at Best Buy and elsewhere.
While there is overhead the value of offline stores is undisputed (see Apple). I have argued the rationale for a Google offline retail presence many times in the past. And back in 2006, before it had various hardware products (Chromebooks, Nest, Android phones, Glass), I argued directly to Google that it should open physical stores.
My argument to Google at that time was mainly about having a place where SMBs could come and learn about digital marketing and ask questions of Google in a “genius bar” style environment. That doesn’t seem to be part of the current plan but it would be wise to include such a component.