If Only Intel Didn't Date Losers

A walk-through (in pictures) of the Intel Experience Store in Venice, California begins on Page Three of this article. 

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's difficult for me to write this article, which ultimately questions the efficacy of the Intel (INTC) Experience holiday pop-up stories in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.


Because ...

The people at Intel were nice enough to set me up with a tour of the LA store, located on Abbot Kinney in Venice. They appear genuinely excited about what they're doing. And, on some level, they have every right to be. As a writer, you want to like what people who are so nice, genuine and accommodating are selling.

But, you also have to call it as you see it.

As I wrote before I even saw an Intel Experience store in person, physical retailers such as Best Buy (BBY) could learn how to reinvent themselves by observing what Intel is doing. After seeing the stores, I believe that times one-hundred-and-ten.

As the pictures I took in the store illustrate, Intel really does put together a nice retail-ish "experience." And, as I have been hammering home for a while now, experience a retailer can monetize for itself, not somebody else, is what will save physical retail from its current fast track to death.

If Best Buy executives are not only touring, but painstakingly observing every last detail of the Intel Experience Stores they're more delusional than I had originally thought.

Walk through an Intel pop-up and you'll quite possibly have dual, conflicting thoughts.

On one hand, yes, Intel crafts an ideal retail experience. It's different. It's not the Apple (AAPL) knock-off we get from Microsoft (MSFT) or Sony (SNE).

As a not-so-aside, Intel, from what I could see, doesn't put the Apple products it's a part of on display. There must be an agreement between Intel and its partners to exclude Apple. These pop-up stores are just as much Windows Experience stores as they are Intel.

That matters for the second, opposing part of the dual conflict, but completing the first part ...

My pictures speak more vividly than my words, but, as best as I can say it, yes, Intel creates a hip and cool environment that feels like, to some extent, it has become part of the surrounding community. They're hosting kids' and adults' yoga, showing sports on television, offering Santa's lap and allowing local businesses to be part of the process, sampling, not selling their items. Local school and community groups come in to tinker with tech inventors. You can not only play with Intel-powered devices for as long as you like, you can even take any one home to test for 24-48 hours.

Intel doesn't push the sale. If you want to buy something, they facilitate it via an Intel-branded Best Buy e-commerce site located on a monitor in-store. These stores exist so consumers can touch and feel the products Intel has put its weight behind -- ultrabooks, two-in-one tablet/laptops, all-in-one experiences.

Herein is where the conflict lies.

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