Google's most frequent corporate comparison is Apple, but one significant difference between the two tech titans is their differing retail presence. Although Google has occasionally had pop-up stores and some limited existence inside other retailers like Best Buy and Curry's, it's never had its own dedicated retail stores—though it was previously rumored to be working on a set in India. But, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune, Google may be close to finalizing a lease alleged to be used for a new retail flagship in Chicago's Fulton Market district.
This retail location, if it pans out, would be just two blocks from Google's Chicago headquarters, and a further sign of the rising gentrification for the area. The Chicago Tribune previously reported that Google was planning to expand its office presence nearby by over 100,000 square feet.
According to our own Stephen Schenck, who frequents the neighborhood in pursuit of fancy eats, Fulton Market "was all meat-packing not too long ago. Then the hip restaurants came. Now Google and hotels."
The location in question is 14,000 square feet in total between the first and second floors, but it's not clear how much of the space might be used for the alleged retail store.
A first-party retail store would make sense given Google's transition over recent years. Between its Assistant-powered Home hardware, the Nest division's smart home goods, and the Pixel phones — which are now also designed in-house by the company's own hardware team — a retail presence fits into the more heavily-controlled marketing efforts the company has favored in recent years. It's much easier to control a consumer's experience and the evolution of public opinion when you control everything about your product's exposure, including the point of purchase.
As Ars Technica's Ron Amadeo notes, this isn't the first time Google has tried to expand its retail presence. Back in 2013, the company bought a handful of shipping barges with the idea of turning them into floating showrooms. It also once leased space in SoHo and spent $6 million in renovations before giving up on the idea.
When approached by the Chicago Tribune for comment, the standard "We don’t comment on rumor or speculation" statement was provided by a Google representative. If the lease is close to being finalized, though, we may not have long to wait before confirmation appears.
- Chicago Tribune
- Ars Technica