Bose has confirmed that it will be closing all of its retail storefronts in the U.S., Canadian, Europe, Japan, and Australia. These closures will result in hundreds of employees being laid off.
Bose says that the decision is being made because its products are "increasingly purchased through e-commerce."
The first Bose store opened in 1993 and the audio brand continued to open more locations, including standalone shops and stores within indoor and outdoor shopping malls. Today, Bose has 119 stores in the aforementioned regions.
While Bose's primary and initial focus was in headphones, including noise-cancelling headphones, as well as tabletop radios, the company has since expanded to offer everything from sports earbuds to smart speakers and smart sunglasses. In addition to its own stores, Bose products are sold through both big box retailers like Best Buy and Target and smaller independent retailers. Ironically, Bose also sells its products direct online.
"Originally, our retail stores gave people a way to experience, test, and talk to us about multi-component, CD and DVD-based home entertainment systems," says Colette Burke, Vice President of Global Sales, Bose Corporation. "At the time, it was a radical idea, but we focused on what our customers needed and where they needed it - and we're doing the same thing now.
"It's still difficult," she adds, "because the decision impacts some of our amazing store teams who make us proud every day."
It's an interesting move in a day and age when retail is feeling a crunch yet many other manufacturers are opening up their own branded stores, like Samsung, Microsoft, Focal, Sonos, and, of course, Apple. For some, the strategy of allowing customers to touch and feel products through physical retail stores is working. Meanwhile, others find that the shift to online sales is negating the need for a physical retail presence. Is there any rhyme or reason that explains why having a retail presence with skilled and passionate staff works for some and not for others? Who knows. Is it about brand buzz? Were Bose stores simply too far ahead of the times and now play second fiddle to newer, presumably hipper, brands like Apple and Sonos? Is it location? The mystery remains.
Bose stores in Greater China and the United Arab Emirates, India, Southeast Asia, and South Korea, will remain open. These include about 130 locations, so Bose will still have a strong international presence in retail. Just not in North America.
Bose says it will offer outplacement assistance and severance to all affected employees. While the private company is not revealing the number of people impacted, The Verge estimates it to be hundreds.