Google is planning to open a two-level store in Chicago’s Fulton Market district, its first known location for a retail flagship, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune. According to the report, the technology giant is close to finalizing a lease for almost 14,000 square feet on the first and second floors of several connected, two-story brick buildings in the area, where Google has its Midwest office headquarters and more than 900 employees.To date, Google’s only retail spaces have been pop-up stores and small shops within other stores in the U.S. and U.K., sectioning off space to show demos of Chromebooks, smart speakers, and cell phones. Google has yet to confirm plans for long-term shops, and no locations have been reported in any other cities.
Total Retail's Take: While this news may come as a surprise to some, technology and retail experts have long speculated that Google would at some point open its own permanent stores to showcase its growing list of electronic products. After all, besides the store-within-a-store concepts mentioned above, Google has tried to crack the standalone retail market several times. Previously, for example, it spent millions renovating a planned 5,000-square-foot retail space in New York City before ultimately abandoning those plans and leasing the space out instead. So, why Chicago? What is it about the Chicago metropolitan area that's making Google revisit the concept again? According to reports, Google knows the neighborhood well as its Midwest headquarters is two blocks away. But perhaps it has to do with the fact that Amazon.com plans to open an Amazon Go store in Chicago shortly. One thing is for sure, however: if the freestanding store opens in the Windy City, it will surely position Chicago as a retail tech hub, and other brands are sure to follow.