Bless the Wall Street Journal, for it has stared into the heart of desperation itself. On a drab stretch of highway half an hour from Detroit sits the only stand-alone BlackBerry store in America. And while the picture above might indicate happier days (day? one glorious night?), rest assured, today it's every bit as depressing as you'd think.
As the WSJ reports, the store has been open for five years, nearly as long as the iPhone itself—although it sounds like it hasn't gotten nearly as many upgrades:
The store has two full-time employees and is stocked with accessories. For new customers, there is a BlackBerry training room in the back of the store with a whiteboard and a conference table. A television set in the corner, plugged into a PlayBook tablet, displayed a roaring fireplace.
If it sounds like a cross between a JV basketball coach's office and a perpetual-bachelor pad, well, that's RIM.
Business is slow. Morale is down, no matter how many jazz duos they bring in. And while you may think the small big box would find solace in its airport BlackBerry Store brethren, think again. There are only seven of those, and RIM's new CEO has already indicated that they maybe weren't the best idea in the first place. Their number's up.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. When RIM first heard the pitch from midwestern retailer Wireless Giant, who operates the store, the company was ready for a grand vision. One location? Try 100, sprinkled all through North America, a retail network ready to rival Apple's by, well, 2012.
But then the economy happened. Competition happened. Poor management happened. Littering strip malls with BlackBerry accessories went down a few notches on the priorities totem. And so Farmington Hills became the site of BlackBerry's last stand. In North America, anyway.
See, while RIM has struggled mightily here, it's still tremendously popular abroad, where it sells ample low-cost handsets. Bargain bin stuff. Which is why it's no surprise that the next planned BlackBerry Store opening is in Dubai (the perfect place to waste money). Or that there are already four operating in Jakarta. That's right: Jakarta has 400 percent as many BlackBerry Stores as North America.
But do they have mascots and martinis, like the Farmington Hills Facebook page (21 likes, 3 recent visits) parades for us? Do they have PlayBook fireplaces and ample parking? Are they the perfect metaphor for a once-great company in decline?
Oh, actually, yes to that last one. They absolutely are. [WSJ]
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