In the nebulous realm of the World Wide Web, tech entities like Google and Amazon have the reach, the customer base and the income that have helped transform them from plucky start-ups into virtual mega-Wal-Marts—too big to fail, and omnipresent in practically every state, city, town and household.
But when it comes to an actual brick-and-mortar storefront, the tech titans pale in comparison.
Google, as seemingly inseparable as it has become from one’s daily life, doesn’t sell tangible products. It offers Android, an operating system for smartphones, which is then sold off by third-party retailers like Verizon and Best Buy. But beyond that, its inventory is unknown.
Amazon’s ascendance in the virtual marketplace has spelled the eventual death of bookstores like Borders and electriconics retailers like Circuit City.
Sure, the company had its Kindles to sell, along with a new book publishing line that Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million and Chapters Indigo have already pledged to boycott from selling in its stores. But Kindles and titles from a fledgling imprint is enough to fill up a boutique store, not a 100,000-square-foot big box. Amazon is reportedly happy to go the boutique route, with plans to rent a small retail space in Seattle to test out the concept for a possible national expansion (Amazon declined to comment for this story).
During CBRE’s 2011 third-quarter media briefing last fall, David LaPierre predicted that both Amazon and Google would be snooping around for retail space in Times Square.
While Google has yet to put a stake into the Crossroads of the World, Mr. LaPierre believes it’s inevitable that Google (or a similar tech entity) will be selling its nondescript wares in person.
“I really do feel like it’s a matter of time, but I don’t think many of these companies have necessarily engaged a plan yet where we’re actually looking at bricks and mortar,” Mr. LaPierre said last week.
Since his prediction, Google was reported to be filing paperwork to open its very first retail store in Dublin, Ireland, selling as-yet-to-be-specified products.
Google would not comment on its retail strategy during an interview with The Commercial Observer.
“Google is actually focused … on improving user experience on the web with respect to commerce and helping folks figure out the best thing to buy. At this point, we have nothing to announce,” said Todd Pollack, Google’s retail director.
But it doesn’t matter what the company sells. The visibility of a Times Square storefront, despite the high cost of occupancy, is no different than spending millions for a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl.
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