Microsoft’s first physical retail store in the UK will be used as a hub for the local community, the tech giant’s UK boss has said.
Cindy Rose said the new three-floor flagship store in London’s Oxford Circus would offer digital workshops and help to small businesses as part of plans to “engage with the community”.
The new store, which opens to the public on Thursday, houses a community theatre which will be used as a digital classroom for free workshops, a gaming lounge that can host competitions as well as sessions for parents and children to discuss issues around video games, and an enterprise space for use by small businesses to host meetings and conference calls.
Ms Rose, the tech giant’s chief executive in the UK, said the new store had to be more than just a place to buy Microsoft products and is the “missing piece” in the company’s investment in this country.
“We won’t measure the success of this flagship by sales alone. It really is about the unique experience we provide to our customers, and that’s not just consumer customers it’s our commercial customers – small, medium and large enterprises – who will have access to our experts and workshops right here on this floor,” she said.
“But also the way that we engage with the community. Right now as we speak there is a classroom full of children in our Community Theatre learning how to code spells into a Harry Potter wand – which is amazing.”
Alongside the launch of the store, Microsoft has announced a new £1 million community grant which will see the tech giant work with three charities over the next two years – UK Youth, the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the London Community Foundation – to offer young people opportunities through digital skills learning.
Ms Rose said the store space would also be used to show off the different aspects of Microsoft’s business.
“I don’t think many people understand how diverse Microsoft’s offer is, and when you realise that we’re building digital skills in the community, we’re working with educators on how to use technology in the classroom, that we’ve got this world-class gaming lounge where people can come and compete and stream and do e-gaming tournaments. Then you come up here to the enterprise floor – I think people will find it surprising how diverse our business is,” she said.
The store’s ground floor also includes a McLaren Senna supercar – modified to become a simulator – in which visitors can sit and play video game Forza Motorsport 7, one of Microsoft’s own-developed games for its Xbox One console.
Its location on Regent Street places it only around 100 yards from rival Apple’s own flagship retail store, however, Ms Rose said that played no part in Microsoft’s decision to open in the area.
“Honestly this was all about where would be the best location for us to engage with our customers,” she said.
“I think you would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful building, in a more beautiful spot, in a more beautiful city anywhere in the world. So regardless of who our neighbours were, we would’ve been right here, where we are.”
She added that the reason the company had not opened a physical store in the UK sooner was because the company wanted to find the best location.
“There is definitely a reason why it has taken this long. It is all about location in retail and we really wanted to wait for the absolute perfect location.
“Oxford Circus for me is the heart of London, it’s the heart of the West End, it’s the capital of the nation. I think it’s one of the premium shopping destinations on the planet and this is the perfect location so I think it was worth the wait.”