Google is getting into retail, at least temporarily, hoping to woo holiday shoppers at pop-up stores in Annapolis and five other spots across the U.S.
The search engine’s store, "Google Winter Wonderlab" opened over the weekend at Westfield Annapolis Mall and at Westfield malls in Los Angeles, Chicago, Sacramento and Paramus, N.J., with a flagship shop in Bryant Park’s Winter Village in New York City.
The $50 billion company, in a bid to compete with tech giants Microsoft and Apple, describes its "Wonderlabs" as fun, interactive places for consumers to play with Google gadgets such as the new Nexus 7 tablets, Chromebook laptops and Chromecast, a plug-in device that allows for playing online video and music on HDTVs. And just for fun, shoppers can walk into a giant snow globe and make slow motion videos of themselves frolicking in fake snow. UPDATE: The snow globe "experience" at the Annapolis store will open on Wednesday.
Microsoft launched a similar pop-up concept last holiday season at 30 locations in the U.S. and Canada, including one at The Mall in Columbia, all designed to give consumers hands-on experience with products.
The launch of Google stores could be the start of a more permanent push by the brand into retail, said Kenneth Wisnefski, president and founder of WebiMax, which helps clients improve rankings on Google’s search engine results.
"The opening of shops across the country shows Google is interested in showing off their latest products to potential consumers," Wisnefski said in a statement. "With [wearable computer] Google Glass still to come, Google could be a major player in the tech space come 2014."
Merchants and other companies often use temporary retail space to test out new ideas. Google’s stores will be open at the malls through Dec. 24, the company said. The Annapolis mall shop is located on the main level in front of Crate and Barrel.