Microsoft opened its first retail store on its home turf Thursday morning to throngs of Miley Cyrus fans who lined up overnight for free concert tickets.
An estimated 1,000 people lined up for the opening at Bellevue Square mall. The store is giving out two free tickets to a Cyrus concert on Saturday to the first 2,000 people.
“It is just exciting as heck to have the seventh store open in our backyard,” Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said before he cut the ribbon on the store and a curtain dropped to show 50 cheering store workers. “All of our stores are special, but this is the store I’m going to be in and out of most often.”
Ballmer shook hands with the first people to enter the store.
People started lining up Wednesday afternoon and waited in the parking garage overnight. People had sleeping bags, stadium fold-out chairs and were playing cards and napping on the ground as of 8 a.m. Microsoft brought in a DJ and the Massive Monkees dancers to entertain people in line, as well as the Skillet food truck to serve dinner and breakfast.
Crissy Allen started waiting Wednesday at 2 p.m. with her son and her service dog. She came to get concert tickets for her son. “I’m here because my son is in love with Miley Cyrus. He said the only reason they’re not engaged is because she hasn’t met him yet.”
She bought an Xbox 360 video game and said the store was “awesome.” “I like that there’s so much space between aisles. Wheelchairs can get through, my dog can get through. It just looks uncluttered and classy.”
The store is 5,000 square feet and has more than a hundred monitors mounted to the walls surrounding the store. Microsoft is selling PCs, Windows Phone 7, the Xbox 360 and the new Kinect motion sensor, software and games. Most of the computers are displayed on high tables, and there’s a community training space in the back. The store will also do a free diagnostic on any Windows PC no matter where it was bought.
“This is a place where customers can enjoy this immersive experience,” said Mika Krammer, general manager of merchandising and marketing for the stores. She said a lot of thought had gone into the store design. All the lines are perpendicular or parallel, the company tested lighting until they found one that didn’t cast shadows. Even the store’s scent, “bamboo sage,” was specially chosen.
The Bellevue store is three doors away from the Apple store. Apple has more than 200 retail stores. The design of the Microsoft store echoes Apple’s minimalist design.
The first two Microsoft stores, which opened last year in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Mission Viejo, Calif., have had more than one million people come through, the company said.
Microsoft presented checks at Thursday’s opening to nonprofits: $200,000 to Cleveland High School, $200,000 to the Bellevue School District, $500,000 to First Robotics and $500,000 to the King County Library system.
Several people interviewed said they were just there for the concert tickets. Esther Erd, from Renton, said, “We’re mostly here for the tickets.” She is eight months pregnant and showed up at 9 a.m. “I’m thinking of buying an iPad for Christmas,” she said.
Luke Nicley from Issaquah arrived at Bellevue Square at 6 in the morning with his sister, and three daughters ages 1, 4 and 7, hoping they could get 10 concert tickets. “My daughters really love Miley Cyrus,” he said. “I’m going home and going to bed” after getting tickets, said Nicley, who works an overnight shift at Home Depot.
The store did appear to win potential shoppers who originally showed up just for the tickets.
“I really just came here for the tickets, but after looking at some products, I think this is my favorite,” said Rica Bejarin, a student at Pierce Community College, looking at a Dell Inspiron Mini Duo. “I think the prices are pretty good.”
Dell is launching the $549 netbook, which has a touchscreen that flips over, exclusively at Microsoft stores.
Michael Tatelman, vice president and general manager for Dell’s consumer business, was also at the store opening. “I love the videos on the wall, the demos, just the next generation thinking that went into how to run a store,” he said.