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Google Opens First Retail Store – In 2011

google-logoThere’s a story going around this week that Google just opened its first retail stores, but I’m not sure how accurate that is.

Forbes, Business Insider, and other sites are reporting that Google just opened its first retail location. It’s renting space inside a PC World store for a Google Store, a "store within a store", where Google techs will sell and demo Chrome and Android devices.

If that sounds strangely familiar, it should. That more or less sums up the Chromezone store within a store which Google opened in September 2011 in a PC World retail store, and it also describes the dozens of similar stores Google has been running in the past 4 years.

9to5Google, London Evening Standard, and a bunch of other sites reported on the story back in 2011. From what I read now, that first store was in every way a retail location where you could indeed buy Google tech (by paying PC World, of course).

It looked like this:


Update: And guess what? A first hand account on Twitter tells us that the store which launched this week isn’t even a real store; it’s just a demo area. So the new store functions exactly the sme as what Google opened 4 years ago.

I can’t tell you why that earlier story slipped by the attention of so many sites, but so far as I can tell the only real difference between the 2011 store and the 2015 store is the devices carried. The new store carries smartwatches, Chromebooks, Android tablets, the Chromecast, and other Google devices (a lot of which didn’t exist four years ago).

The 2011 store (and the other stores opened in the subsequent 4 years) carried fewer items.

Also, the names were different (Chromezone vs Google Store), and the new store has a nifty looking mechanical wall in the display window:


If anyone can detail a difference between the older and newer stores which would explain how the newer store counts as a first, I would deeply appreciate it. (I am honestly confused by the reports.)

P.S. On a related note, does anyone know if Google launched the standalone retail stores which rumors said would appear in 2013? and then again in 2014? I don’t recall reading about a launch, but then again I don’t follow Google that closely.

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Basem March 13, 2015 um 12:37 am

I visited the Chromezone a few times in the exact place they are opening the store – it was a section in PC World that sold Chromebooks and Chromeboxes. Essentially, in the Chromezone, you would be purchasing Chrome OS devices from PC World. This Google store is still in the same store but think it is expanded to included a larger area to showcase a wider selection of Google related products & services, along with Chrome OS devices. I am not too sure if you would make the purchase directly via Google or PC World; judging Google are taking a large area of the store, then my hunch is that some agreement has been reached to sell the goods via PC World. I am looking forward to visit the store soon, so will have a better idea then.

puzzled March 13, 2015 um 4:34 am

"I can’t tell you why that earlier story slipped by the attention of so many sites"

Well clearly, journalists don’t know how to Google…

What Drives Discovery the Best? | Digital Book World March 13, 2015 um 8:04 am

[…] Google Tests Physical Retail…Again (Ink, Bits & Pixels) Google dips its toes into physical retail with a new shop nested inside an electronics retailer in London, where customers can test out Google devices. One observer points out the company tried a similar initiative in 2011. […]

fjtorres March 13, 2015 um 8:09 am

Maybe the Chromezone demanded its right to be forgotten.

Nate Hoffelder March 13, 2015 um 8:24 am


That wouldn’t explain why no one remembers the stores in best Buy and other chains.

frmorrison March 13, 2015 um 10:42 am

The previous two stores were indeed Chromezones in 2011. Someone made a Wikipedia article about it

Nate Hoffelder March 13, 2015 um 11:01 am

There were more than two, I think.

Google’s new London retail store: only if ‘new’ means ‘four years old’ | The Overspill: when there's more that I want to say March 14, 2015 um 7:29 am

[…] Nate Hoffelder pointed out on Friday, this story then got rewritten as “Google’s first retail store” in March 2015 […]

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