Microsoft announced Friday that it will close all of its physical Microsoft Store locations and focus on e-commerce operations. The closures are expected to result in a charge to the company of $450 million.
Retail employees will assist customers remotely, and Microsoft will build a "pipeline of talent with transferable skills," per a company statement.
As part of its shift to e-commerce, the company said it is investing in video chat support, online tutorial videos, virtual workshops and other digital solutions. The company also noted that it will "reimagine" locations that serve all customers, including its Microsoft Experience Centers in London, New York City and Sydney.
Microsoft is following in the footsteps of other retailers that recently have announced closures of physical storefronts, including GNC, Signet and The Children’s Place. Research from Coresight estimates that between 20,000 and 25,000 U.S. stores could close permanently in 2020.
The tech giant noted in its press release that its online presence across Microsoft, Xbox and Windows attracts more than 1.2 billion people monthly in 190 markets. Going forward, the company said it will cater to consumers from its corporate offices and virtually oversee sales, training and technical support.
"Our sales have grown online as our product portfolio has evolved to largely digital offerings, and our talented team has proven success serving customers beyond any physical location," Microsoft corporate vice president David Porter, said in a statement.
As states weigh phased reopenings, many consumers continue to work, shop and attend school remotely. Microsoft appears to be not only helping consumers with their transition to remote living but is also participating in a broader trend of retailers connecting with customers digitally. Lowe's introduced a tech tool that allows professionals to virtually visit clients. David's Bridal is now incorporating virtual appointments via Zoom as one of its latest services.
"We deliberately built teams with unique backgrounds and skills that could serve customers from anywhere," Porter said. "The evolution of our workforce ensured we could continue to serve customers of all sizes when they needed us most, working remotely these last months."