Nokia’s woes worsened recently when it announced it was shutting its flagship physical store on London’s Regent Street. Today, reports surfaced about the closing of it’s New York and Chicago stores, too. Weren’t they Apple-y enough?
Back in 2006 when Nokia opened its own bricks-and-mortar stores in the U.S., all seemed rosy. At the time Nokia spokesman Keith Nowak noted that the idea was to have a Nokia-ized experience: “The people who work there will be Nokia people, with knowledge that will be deep. And the luxury of having some of these new channels is it gives us the opportunity to offer products which are a little lower volume and a little targeted.” Those words were an echo of the corporate-speak things Nokia UK MD Simon Ainslie said in 2008 at the London store opening: “In championing our brand, Nokia Regent Street will be dynamic, original and beautifully designed.”
Read into those words and you can almost here the Nokia higher-ups’ discussion in the boardroom: “Well, Apple did it like this. We can too.” And indeed, the actual stores could be described as having a bit of the Apple design about them–just with more glitz. And with more colored mood lighting. And with phones on stands like little displays in jewelry shops. And with Nokia’s rare and odd high-end phone efforts on pedestals, costing a fortune but still running the same bland Symbian OS and with the same guts as the $50 phone next door. In fact, Nokia seems to have take the classy and uber-simplistic presentation ideals of an Apple Store (where playing with products in an uncluttered and friendly environment is part of the Apple magic that helps sell its gear) and mixed in some good ol’ 1970s dodgy Eurodisco glam.
Which, if you think about it, is a very odd way to try to sell cell phones–not particularly exciting devices, on the whole. And, remember, these are cell phones from a maker that makes most of its money selling ultra-cheap, mass-market devices. Say “Nokia” and people won’t think of the high-end Vertu phones Nokia also pedals. Say “Vertu” and most people will go “expensive super-swanky nonsense.” So exactly who did Nokia think it would be selling phones to in these shops?