Intel tries its hand at retail showrooming

The OEM, which sells no end-user product, gets into the retail space.

With Microsoft and Apple opening their own stores, and Apple and Samsung creating mini-stores inside Best Buy, brick-and-mortar retail seems to be experiencing a new era as it fights back against the Amazon "showrooming" threat.

If you're not familiar with the word, you probably know and have engaged in the action. It's the act of going to a retail store, like Best Buy, to check out an item, then going home and buying it on Amazon or NewEgg to save 10%. Best Buy and other retailers have fought back, saying they will match online prices, and this has pulled Best Buy from the brink.

So why would Intel set up showrooms? Well, it doesn't sell an end user product, but it does sell components in said products, and things are kind of tough for Intel these days. The PC business is suffering from sliding sales and the company has spun its wheels trying to get anywhere against ARM.

Therefore, why not open showrooms with Intel-powered prototypes for people to get a hands-on experience? Not a bad idea, especially if you consider most of the mobile carriers have dummy phones and tablets that don't work.

Intel is opening just three Intel Experience Stores– NYC (Nov. 23), Chicago (Nov. 25) and LA (Nov. 26) – and they will only be open until Jan. 25, 2014. The stores are a chance for Intel to "educate visitors on Intel technology through hands-on experiences," according to an Intel spokesperson.

The primary goal of these stores is for Intel to get the word out about Intel-based systems and offer visitors the opportunity to purchase online from inside the stores. The stores will also act as community hubs with events that will be held throughout the holiday season.

It's an interesting move. Most retailers hate showrooming, but Intel is encouraging it. That's because the business model is different. And since the stores won't carry inventory and will likely have small footprints, Intel can easily absorb the cost with no immediate financial return.

Clearly Intel feels its message isn't getting out, and it needs to take a drastic step. You can view this as desperation, or Intel taking the initiative like it has done in the past when OEMs and partners fell down on the job.

I would not be in the least bit surprised if, come January, they keep the stores open and expand to a few more cities. This little experiment strikes me as a toe in the water, and if it helps in any way, they will continue to do it.

And if it works, don't be surprised if competitors follow suit.

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