We had reported last week at TreoCentral that Palm will be closing all of their retail stores. Since then there have been conflicting reports, including questions about whether they would close all but one, or perhaps leave some airport stores open. We've also received emails with other reports that have further muddied the Palm Retail Rumor waters.
The first thing to note is that there are essentially two types of Palm stores - stores owned directly by Palm (see update below) and stores owned by Airport Wireless and operated in partnership with Palm. A spokesperson for Palm has verified that Palm is indeed closing down all of their stores except for one - the one located at Palm's own headquarters.
As for Airport Wireless, rumors (both email and also in the TreoCentral Forum Thread where the story originally broke) had indicated that these 3rd party stores may stay open after a "major announcement" due this week. So it is very clear that the Airport Wireless stores will not be shutting down.
Instead these stores will continue to operate under the name "Airport Wireless" and will also continue to stock Palm's products. Just as interesting, Airport Wireless' "major announcement" is that not only are they staying open, they're expanding:
It is with great excitement that we announce a more focused partnership with Nokia, Blackberry and Motorola. All signage and branding for these Global manufacturers will be within the locations. As Airport Wireless has gained a National Brand status, there is no longer a need to co-brand with any other company.
So that's the whole scoop - Palm is definitely closing everything retail down (except a token HQ store), but that is only a small handful of stores. The rest, under the Airport Wireless name, are staying open and will continue to stock Palm's products.
Essentially, then, all this isn't as big a deal as it seems at first blush. There were only a handful of Palm-owned stores in the first place, and given that Palm has never been a retail company to begin with, closing them definitely seems like a good move.
Thanks to everybody who emailed us regarding this story!
Correction: Although Palm owns and operates the non-airport stores, they are staffed by a 3rd party vendor (MarketSource) Palm had contracted out. What this means is that it's unlikely that even these employees will be losing their jobs -- many of them will be redeployed to other positions.