Google is moving beyond pop-up stores to launch a dedicated retail space of its own. The internet giant has revealed plans to open its first retail store, with a location in Manhattan's Chelsea district (part of the company's urban campus) opening sometime this summer. The New York City shop will carry Pixel, Nest and Fitbit hardware that you can either buy directly or pick up as an online order. Much like Apple's stores, there will be support staff on hand as well as workshops to help newcomers.
And yes, Google is aware there's still a pandemic. The store was designed with health concerns in mind, and Google will still require masks, social distancing and hand sanitizing. The company will also limit capacity and clean spaces throughout the day. We wouldn't count on these limitations lasting for too long given US progress in COVID-19 vaccinations, but it's safe to presume you won't see a crush of visitors for a while.
Google said it chose the location as a "natural extension" of its NYC involvement. The retail debut was an "important next step" in its hardware strategy, and it expected to shape future experiences based on feedback.
The store is a gamble at a time when many are still shying away from retail due to health concerns. However, it's not surprising. Apple opened its first stores in part to provide an ideal showcase that it wasn't getting from third-party retailers, and they eventually became key to the company's renaissance during the 2000s. Google isn't necessarily counting on replicating that success, but it's clearly hoping that these stores will raise awareness of its hardware and boost sales in the long term.