A Microsoft Store Opening – The Complete Experience

Thinks is less than a quarter of the line I found when I arrived
This is less than a quarter of the line I found when I arrived

On November 22 Microsoft officially opened its 110th retail Store in the Westfield – Montgomery Mall in Bethesda MD. We gave you a sample of the actual opening moments on video, and an interview with the Store Manager earlier. Ironically, I purchased a new Surface Pro 3 at the opening itself, and when I got home my Surface Pro got wind of it and died, so it’s taken a bit longer to get this out to you than I had hoped, but, courtesy of my new Surface Pro 3 – here’s how it all happened.

The Store was covered with a white cloth, hiding all the activity within.  On the right is the beginning of the line with the lucky 200 that got to meet an MLB Player.
The Store was covered with a white cloth, hiding all the activity within. On the right is the beginning of the line with the lucky 200 that got to meet an MLB Player.

To be honest, I’ve never been attracted to store openings, visions of slick guys in cheap suits and toaster giveaways were what came to mind, but here at MicrosoftProductReviews.com we will go to any lengths to keep you in the loop so I hitched up my boots and went to see what it’s all about.

I arrived at the mall about an hour before the opening. I wasn’t expecting too much, this was a Microsoft store, not a destination that usually arouses a lot of passion in people. Since the first 200 people in line would get a chance to meet Stephen Strasburg (a Major League Baseball player for those who don’t recognize the name). I figured there would be several hundred sports die-hards, and a few looking for opening day bargains. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Th Elaine started off in the distance on the right, passed behind me for an equal distance, made a Uh-Turn and came back on the left, then wrapped around the Macy's store and out of sight! Hundreds of People for Microsoft!
The line started off in the distance on the right, passed behind me for an equal distance, made a U-Turn and came back on the left, then wrapped around the Macy’s store and out of sight! Hundreds of People for Microsoft!

There were many hundreds of people, of all ages and interests, literally filling that arm of the mall. As the photos try to show, the crowd began at the Microsoft Store, which is at a prime location on the corner opposite an Anchor Store (Macy’s) and a Starbucks. It then ran all the way down one arm of the mall to another Anchor Store, then did a 180 turn and ran all the way down the same arm (on the opposite side of the arm), pausing only briefly to make a gap for the tomb-like Apple Store, and then kept on going all the way to the Microsoft Store again! There was also a separate line that snaked around in front of Macy’s and went down the other arm of the mall a ways. I was looking at between 400-500 people and it wasn’t open yet!

Not much interest in the  Fruit Stand nearby...
Not much interest in the Fruit Stand nearby…

It’s worth noting too that this isn’t a huge store. It has ~1300 sqft of well laid out space, but at the moment it was clearly dwarfed by the line up. Translation, once the store opened, these people were going to have to wait a while to get in, so they must be VERY interested in getting their hands on some new Microsoft products!

 

Winner of the "Best Tweet" Award gets his swag
Winner of the “Best Tweet” Award gets his swag

The Opening Ceremony began with a crowd-raising talk by the new Store Manager (you can read our interview with her here), explaining that there were several things to look forward to in the next few minutes. There was a giveaway to the person who had the best Tweet sent out from the line, and a short speech by the Director of Economic Development for the County – Steve Silverman. Microsoft Vice President Fred Humphries had the enviable job of giving away some $625,000 in technology Awards to a variety of organizations.

Microsoft V.P. Fred Humphries gave away a lot of money to the Community, here he is awarding $50,000 to Wounded Warriors
Microsoft V.P. Fred Humphries gave away a lot of money to the Community, here he is awarding $50,000 to Wounded Warriors

And then there was the actual opening.  I won’t spend time describing it, you can see the video of it here. Much more fun than you would expect from a stodgy old company like Microsoft.

The scene inside the store was initially nearly bedlam. The Xbox and Tablet deals were disappearing fast, but inside all of this was a professional and unflappable staff that calmly helped people out and completed sales as quickly as possible.

Checking out was an all Microsoft affair with wireless Lumia-driven handheld.
Checking out was an all Microsoft affair with wireless Lumia-driven handheld.

Personally, I scored a number of great deals, as well as regular purchases. Frankly, the store is a dangerous place! I was impressed with the way the staff had been prepped to be able to manage the entire purchase process from their hands as opposed to having to try to work thru the crowd to a register.  Everything was handled quickly and efficiently by my salesperson via a Windows Phone that was snapped into a base with a card scanner.  Once she had my Windows ID everything was smooth as silk including emailing me a receipt within a minute (neither of us wanted to fight through the crowd just to pick that up!)

The Surface and Tablet table.
The Surface and Tablet table.

The store layout is simple and will be pleasing to wander through when it is a bit less crowded. Tables with product category examples of machines are arrayed in an easy to navigate fashion with plenty of room to wander about.

 

 

Lots of MS Bands and accessories were readily seen and available.
Lots of MS Bands and accessories were readily seen and available “Off the Wall”.

Wall displays on the interior wall side do the same and hold many electronic Tchotchkes like chargers for the Microsoft Band, and, by the way, they had quite a stock of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A nice selection of Windows Phones to play with.
A nice selection of Windows Phones to play with.

There was a nice array of Windows Phones to look at and play with in several parts of the store. This shelf was on the wall towards the rear section.  Others could be found on tables towards the front of the store, ready to be spotted as you walked in or just passing by.

 

 

Stephen Strasburg playing Xbox with his lucky fans in the rear Events/Training part of the store.
Stephen Strasburg (Left side with short hair and blue shirt)playing Xbox with his lucky fans in the rear Events/Training part of the store.

The rear third of the store can be quickly reconfigured to serve as a training space or open area for any purpose. Microsoft calls this space the “Community Theater”. When the store opened it was basically piled high with Xbox 360s and the $99 Tablet specials. In a few hours that pile had been winnowed down and the space was quickly reconfigured to serve as the space for the meet and greet even with MLB Player Steven Strasburg, who spent some time entertaining the lucky 200 first people in line at the store.  He was bowling in an Xbox One on a multi-display panel that formed the back wall of the store to good effect and got lots of applause whenever he bowled a strike!

One of the very happy Strasburg fans, Carl - showing off some of the special event SWAG from his visit with Stephen Stasburg
One of the very happy Strasburg fans, Carl – showing off some of the special event SWAG from his visit with Stephen Stasburg

I left to stash my purchases in my car and grabbed a quick lunch. I could hear the crowd upstairs even in the noise and activity downstairs in the food court.  I returned to the store to interview the new Manager and then made another swing thru the store. Still full of shoppers and the line still snaking around the mall. People seemed happy to wait however, as the excitement and the deals were still in stock.

Overall, my impression of the event was that it was kind of like going to a fair – lots of fun for people of many ages and interests, but in this case, a clear focus on tech deals was obvious.  I enjoyed myself, which was a bit of a surprise as I’m not really a crowd person, so I would have to say when Microsoft opens a store near you I would encourage you to go down – early – and be a part of the fun.

"Oh yes. I DID enjoy myself ;-)"
“Oh yes. I DID enjoy myself ;-)”

This is what it's like to be at a grand opening of a Microsoft store

Martin microsoft store

We covered the Microsoft store opening in the Eaton Centre mall in Toronto on November 20th, and just two days later Microsoft opened up two more stores, one in California and  one in Bethesda at the Westfield Montgomery mall in Maryland, which we covered and managed to get some great video footage of.

The mall was packed with visitors and the line ran from the store, which is situated at one apex of the Mall’s arms, down an entire arm, past the relatively quiet Apple Store, to the end of the arm, then back again, and all around a part of the other arm of the Mall.  It was an enormous crowd of hundreds of eager fans and curious customers. The countdown began and as the curtain dropped, Microsoft employees cheered and the music kicked in.  Shortly after, the store employees started a circular conga line and before I knew it I was deep in the riot of action.

For those of you interested in what it’s like to be at the front lines of a Microsoft Store opening, watch this.

Here’s some video footage of the line and just before the store opened, but it doesn’t capture the entire line, just a small portion.

Take a look at our coverage of the new Microsoft Store in downtown Toronto  which just opened at the busy Eaton Centre mall on Nov.20th.

Recap Video: Microsoft's newest downtown Toronto store opening

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Update:  We also covered the new Microsoft Store opening in Bethesda at the Westfield Montgomery mall.  Check out our video footage as we enter the circular conga line

Microsoft opened their third store in the Toronto area on November 20th, marking the ninth retail store in Canada and the 109th across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Their new store is situated in the heart of downtown Toronto’s Eaton Centre mall, which happens to be Toronto’s top tourist attraction with over one million visitors per week, making it a vital location to have an official store. This new retail space was occupied by the Sony Store before closing down and Microsoft managed to secure it.

Here’s our recap of the curtain drop and the massive line that formed in the mall, despite the bad weather and no concert tickets to give away. Fans lined up to see Microsoft’s new store and get their hands on some great deals.

We also managed to get a sneak peek of the store the day before the opening, and for those of you interested in more information on what the store has to offer, see: An early sneak peek at the new Microsoft Store in downtown Toronto

An early sneak peek at the new Microsoft Store in downtown Toronto

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Updated Nov.21 2014: The Eaton Centre Store is now open for business and here is our video recap of the opening

Microsoft will be opening their third store in the Toronto area tomorrow, marking the ninth retail store in Canada and the 109th across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Their new store is situated in the heart of downtown Toronto’s Eaton Centre mall, which happens to be a very busy place all throughout the day and a vital location to have an official store. This new retail space was occupied by the Sony Store before closing down and Microsoft managed to secure it.

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Toronto Eaton Centre Mall Area

On a side note, for those of you hoping to see the Microsoft Band’s debut in Canada with this new store opening, don’t hold your breath as the store manager has confirmed that Microsoft’s new wearable device will not make its way to the great white north tomorrow, and it may be a while before it does. (Which many already know)

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There are an additional two rows of desks behind the camera with Surface displays

We managed to get a sneak peek and general tour earlier this morning and we like what we saw, but we noticed that the store has a smaller footprint than the other two locations in the surrounding area.  There are a total of six desks (stations) – two of which are behind the camera in the photo above and serve as Surface displays.  The other four stations will display 2-in-1 devices, tablets, and traditional laptops while the walls will be occupied with accessories, Xbox games, and a designated area for all-in-one PCs and Windows Phones.  HP’s new $199 ($249.99 in Canada) Stream laptop will make its debut in Canada tomorrow as well.

We noticed that Microsoft used the space efficiently – cramming everything the larger stores offer, except for the show-off items such as the 3D printer display, the Xbox One Kinect area and training area that usually reside behind the answer desk.

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Canada has a pretty poor selection of Windows Phones, hence the display

WP_20141119_11_27_12_RawMicrosoft has implemented some design changes when comparing to their elaborate Yorkdale Mall location, as walls are not occupied by connected displays which are dynamically changing, but rather a more subtle approach with what appear to be billboard displays (although they look like actual displays which may not have been turned on to display additional information). We will find out tomorrow.WP_20141119_11_27_29_RawMicrosoft also has a special something for Canadian Xbox fans, and that’s actual stock of the Sunset Overdrive Xbox One bundle.  Although not many, you’ll be hard pressed to find them anywhere else.  There are more in the back room, but they seem to be in limited supply so we suggest you line up a little earlier tomorrow if your looking to grab one. Microsoft will also carry  the Assassins Creed and Advanced Warfare Xbox One bundles so this is the place to be for your Xbox One bundle needs.WP_20141119_11_28_05_Raw

Promotions and Special offers for the opening day

Attendees will be able to purchase an Xbox 360 or a Dell Venue Pro 32 GB for just $99 tomorrow, and that’s  while supplies last of course, the downer is that the offer is limited to one per customer.  We have been assured that there is plenty of Dell tablets to go around and obviously less Xbox 360’s due to the larger physical size but plenty of them as well.

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A stack of $99 Dell Venue Pro 32GB tablets
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$99 Xbox 360’s

As part of the opening promotions, Microsoft will give the first 500 people in line for the ribbon cutting ceremony a gift card with a value of $10-$1000. Out of these 500 gift cards,  100 of them will have a $100 value with two of them offering the grand prize of $1000. In addition, the first 200 people in line will receive a complimentary meet and greet ticket for an Xbox One event with hockey star Tie Domi.

Microsoft will kick off their grand opening ceremonies at 10:30 AM with the official opening and curtain drop taking place at 11 AM.  The Xbox event with Tie Domi will take place at 4 PM.

We are happy to see that Microsoft has covered the major parts of Canada’s largest city with their stores, they now have a store in the three largest and busiest malls in Toronto.  There are of course more areas to cover throughout the city, particularly the east end with Fairview mall and Canada’s second largest mall a little north of the city (Vaughan Mills Mall).  For now the three most important areas are covered and it certainly encouraging to see more stores pop up.

We will be covering the opening ceremonies and the official curtain drop tomorrow to capture the excitement and the scene inside the Eaton Centre so stay tuned.

For official details on tomorrows opening check out the Microsoft Store website