Samsung is set to open three new physical retail stores in the New York, Los Angeles and Houston areas tomorrow, the same day the consumer electronics giant launches its latest mobile smartphone line, the Galaxy S10, according to a company press release.
The Samsung Experience Stores coincides with the Samsung Unpacked 2019 livestream event celebrating 10 years of Galaxy gadgets from the brand. Samsung also plans to begin a pop-up store tour in March to enable in-person experiences for more consumers.
Visitors to the new stores can learn about and purchase Galaxy smartphones, tablets, wearables, TVs and SmartThings devices, getting hands-on demonstrations from Samsung experts, along with customer support, including walk-in repair for mobile devices.
Given that Apple, Samsung's chief rival in the mobile device market, has built up an experiential retail store empire in recent years, it's surprising that it took Samsung this long to follow that model. The device maker's previous retail adventures under its own brand consisted of opening pop-up stores and store-within-a-store experiences in New York and other markets to allow consumers to try new technologies like virtual reality.
Now, Samsung is following in Apple's footsteps at a time when several other retailers and brands also are embracing non-traditional physical retail strategies, including concept and experiential stores. While Apple has aimed to make its own stores community gathering places, Samsung said it's aiming for a "playground" vibe in which shoppers can interact with 4D VR technology and face off against friends in a 4K gaming lounge. They will also will be able to see the newest 8K TVs and create augmented reality emojis, among other activities.
Samsung's store openings also come at a critical time for the company, as Samsung, like Apple, is dealing with the reality of a smartphone market that has stopped growing. (Samsung reported a 10% revenue decline and 29% drop in operating profit for the fourth quarter 2018.) That means both companies will likely be leaning on other aspects of their businesses, including smart home and direct-to-consumer channels like their retail stores.
Samsung also may be hoping that having a retail identity can create more energy and demand around devices that have reached saturation or are in generally lower demand in some markets.
All three new Samsung stores are in shopping malls — The Americana at Brand in Glendale, CA; Roosevelt Field on Long Island in Garden City, NY; and The Galleria in Houston. It will be worth watching to see if Samsung pursues standalone locations with eye-catching design schemes, as Apple has been famous for, and a broader and more aggressive physical store expansion into other markets.