Samsung Opens Store That Doesn’t Sell Its Products

February 22, 2016, 7:51 PM UTC
Mobile World Congress - Day 1
BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 22: Visitors look at the new Samsung Galaxy S7 on the opening day of the World Mobile Congress at the Fira Gran Via Complex on February 22, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. The annual Mobile World Congress hosts some of the world's largest communications companies, with many unveiling their latest phones and wearables gadgets. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photograph by David Ramos — Getty Images

Samsung has taken a novel approach to retail: it’s opening a big store that doesn’t sell any products.

Dubbed Samsung 837, the store really can’t be called a store at all. It may be designed to tout the virtues of Samsung’s many devices and feature a wide range of Samsung products, but the company doesn’t actually sell any of its own devices. Instead, general manager Zach Overton explained in an interview with Fast Company on Monday, Samsung has opened an “immersive cultural center.”

“We didn’t want it to be about pushing products in people’s faces,” Overton told Fast Company.

The non-store comes with a 90-seat theater, an art gallery, and a cafe. According to Fast Company, the center also features a three-story digital screen made up of 96 Samsung 55-inch televisions. It also includes a demo kitchen outfitted with Samsung appliances, as well as an audio-visual studio.

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While it may not be a store, Fast Company, which went on a tour of the facility, said it acts like one in many ways. In addition to having Samsung products everywhere, Samsung employees are available to talk about the company’s products and let folks try out its devices. Those same employees facilitate easy purchases through the company’s e-commerce site. And just to be safe, there’s an in-store support center that will allow current Samsung device owners to get their products fixed without having to send them in to the manufacturer.

The idea may sound odd, but it’s part of the technology industry’s broader experiential retail initiative.

Apple (AAPL) kicked things off with its own retail stores, offering patrons the opportunity to browse devices, attend classes on how to use products, and even check their email on in-store computers without ever making them feel they needed to buy anything. Since then, several companies, including Best Buy (BBY) and Microsoft (MSFT), have followed Apple’s lead by creating a shopping experience, rather than a trap for people to buy products.

Microsoft opened its first flagship store in New York City in October. Unlike Samsung, the store actually sells Microsoft (and others companies’) products. However, the 22,000-square-foot space on Fifth Avenue includes a wide range of experiential offerings, including learning centers and a community theater to hear about new products. The entire store is outfitted with “immersive video walls.” Microsoft has called it “a premier venue to learn about, experience and shop for the products and services from Microsoft and our partners.”

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So, it’s perhaps no surprise that Samsung’s 40,000-square-foot space takes a different tack than traditional retail. Overton told Fast Company that Samsung realizes people are comfortable with e-commerce and doesn’t believe a cash register will change its luck of selling products. Offering those people the Samsung product experience, however, just might.

For now, Samsung 837 is an experiment, and it’s unknown whether similar stores will pop up elsewhere. The store is set to open tonight at 7 p.m. EST.

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