Amid the restrictive business environment created by the pandemic, Microsoft is pulling the plug on all of 116 of its stores worldwide. Only its locations in London, New York, Sydney and Redmond, Wa., will remain open, but they will be reimagined to serve customers in new ways.Microsoft corporate vice president David Porter announced the drastic strategy shift to the multinational hardware and software company’s retail operations on LinkedIn. In the post, Porter noted that while the Microsoft Store team has successfully provided customer support throughout the crisis virtually—even breaking weekly average highs by 400% on training for products like Microsoft Teams—the past months have “been extraordinary” and challenging on the enterprise.“We are energized about the opportunity in how we engage with all customers, optimize our talent for greatest impact, and most importantly—help our valued customers achieve more,” Porter wrote. “Our retail team members will continue to serve customers working from Microsoft corporate facilities or remotely, and we will continue to develop our diverse team in support of the overall company mission and objectives.”Store closings are a nationwide trend, as Coresight Research projects up to 25,000 retail locations will close nationwide in 2020. That’s more than double the number of stores that closed in 2019.The Microsoft Store’s customer service functions will shift to its digital storefront on Microsoft.com, as well as the Xbox and Windows platforms, which collectively reach up to 1.2 billion monthly customers in 190 markets. The company will continue investing and development of virtual offerings borne from efforts to mitigate the ongoing spread of Covid-19 such as online tutorials, workshops and one-on-one video sales support. “We will make our digital storefronts the best place to learn, buy and receive support across software and hardware,” Porter added.Moreover, according to Porter, the Microsoft Store team has thus far hosted more than 14,000 online workshops and summer camps and has helped more than 3,000 schools celebrate virtual graduations. Part of this outreach achievement was attributed to the company’s commitment to diversify its remote retail workforce, boasting an employee base that speaks over 120 languages.Porter’s announcement also mentioned that Microsoft’s four flagship stores will be “reimagined new spaces” that will continue to serve customers: “We will continue to co-locate engineering, sales, support, envisioning centers, executive briefing centers and retail spaces.”The statement did not mention any specifics about whether the closures would involve any layoffs, nor a timeline on when to expect the permanent shuttering of individual Microsoft Stores. The first Microsoft Store debuted in Scottsdale, Ariz., in October 2009.