Google’s new London retail store: only if ‘new’ means ‘four years old’ (and not a Google store)

Photo: Evening Standard in September 2011

Jonathan Prynn, writing in September 2011, described how “Google’s first store pops up in London”:

The world’s first “Google store” opened not in California but in the less glamorous setting of PC World in Tottenham Court Road at 9am.

The 285sqft pop-up “shop within a shop”, which only sells Google’s Chromebook laptop and a few accessories such as headphones, will run for three months up to Christmas.

But if the low-key experiment is successful Google could follow its great rival Apple in opening permanent stores around the world.

Unlike the hugely hyped launch of the first Apple Store in Regent Street, very few customers were even aware of the Google shop – officially known as “the Chromezone” – and there were certainly no queues round the block.

As Nate Hoffelder pointed out on Friday, this story then got rewritten as “Google’s first retail store” in March 2015 when Google did exactly the same thing, though with a bigger budget, in exactly the same store.

I didn’t even remember the 2011 setup myself, and there’s no story about it in the Guardian at the time; it whizzed past my radar.

But someone ought to have remembered, surely? Especially because it seems that the “Google Zone” idea was then rolled out to 50 PC World stores around the UK. Did nobody notice those?

As Hoffelder notes,

“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).”

Photo: Business Insider

No Google Glass, I’m guessing. And as Hoffelder also points out, there were rumours of standalone Google retail stores in 2013 and 2014. Those haven’t panned out either.

Now, to be fair, the new look is dramatically improved on the old one. Google didn’t have much to sell then; now it can offer all those hardware products. There’s even a Google Maps installation to a screen wall that lets you “fly” across the world.

Google seems to be claiming that this is its first branded store.

That’s what the PC World press release suggests:

In a world first, Google today unveiled its first “shop in shop”

and that

This is the first Google shop experience Google has opened anywhere in the world.


“Google shop experience”? The store-in-a-store isn’t new. And Google’s own spokesman seems unaware of its previous existence in this Business Insider story.

Update: via Stuart Miles of Pocket Lint, this “branded store” isn’t actually a Google store at all – as in, Google isn’t taking the money. Here’s the evidence:

From which maybe one concludes that both Google and journalists believe the company’s spin, and that four years is long enough for something to have been completely forgotten in technology. (Thanks to commenter Paul for pointing this out.)

Although I bet if it had been either Apple or Microsoft which had tried to claim their store-in-a-store was a “first” they would have had everyone on them like a ton of bricks.

2 thoughts on “Google’s new London retail store: only if ‘new’ means ‘four years old’ (and not a Google store)

  1. Hi Charles,

    Thanks for the credit link and the extra details.

    Now that I’m catching up on Saturday morning, I can see that some sites (Telegraph, for example) do mention the older stores and make the distinction that this is the first Google-branded store (as opposed to Chrome-branded stores).

    I do think the title of “first google store” is wrong, though.

    • Indeed – it’s clearly just a concession like the Apple and Microsoft ones in the same store. And the money goes to Dixons Carphone, not Google.

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