As discussed in my previous review of Amazon 4-Star, I spent some time in New York City in December of 2018 and one of the “must do” stores I wanted to visit was the new Nike flagship in Manhattan. Called the “Nike House of Innovation 000”, folks in the retail trade have offered praise on this store and they are not wrong. I think Nike offers a best-in-class example of how to create an engaging brand and shopping experience in this ever-changing retail environment we find ourselves in.
When I first approached the Fifth Avenue, 68,000 square foot, 6-floor store I was immediately impressed by the corner location and overall vibe. One could tell one was in for something unique. I was brought back to my clubbing days from the late 1980’s and expected to hear Bizzare Love Triangle from New Order or How Soon Is Now? from The Smiths as I entered.
The store is part shrine, part museum, part retail store and part factory. The beauty of this concept is it appeals to numerous Nike target customers from the avid, die-hard sneaker freak to the tourist to the casual Nike purchaser. Cashier-less, this flagship uses the Nike app to facilitate payment and other goodies that Nike serves up for its’ most loyal customers.
One of the main themes of this shop is customization. Customization, as many of you know is one of the key buzzwords in retail right now and Nike kills it with their version of it. Customers work with experts and with each other in sessions to basically build a running shoe from scratch. Sort of like a product manager or product developer, they build their own shoe or garment within this small scale footwear and apparel factory. How cool is that?
Community, another important (but overused) term with retail, is alive and kicking (another great 80’s song) at the Nike store as customization takes place through customer workshops as shown above. Nothing like connecting with other sneaker nuts in New York at this place of brand worship.
One of the visual focal points in the store is the massive “sport beacon” that hangs through the open space between floors. I see it as a crazy-ass chandelier that inspires both creativity and randomness in a sort of psychedelic way. It looks like an inverted Stanley Cup on steroids with a side order of digital screens and lights. Very hip.
As I ascended the stairs and conquered each floor, I enjoyed the embedded Nike specialist workshop. Nike employees were busy working away on customized orders all within a magnificent fishbowl for all to see. Great way to build credibility and engage customers.
The store includes numerous other important features like QR coded mannequins that allow customers to scan and see if their size is available or order the product to a fitting room. A VIP customer concierge & appointment centre that looks a little like a 1970’s massage parlour. Plenty of sneaker walls in a whole floor dedicated to footwear. Awesome product fixtures that go way out in space to delight drooling customers. All of the features are delivered with digital prowess and experiential value.
While the store will sell a lot of product at great margins, it does something much more important: it fans the flames of a continued Nike love affair with customers.
Probably the best retail store I have ever seen, it is definitely worth checking out even if you don’t own or plan on owning running shoes!
See the CNBC article from last fall when it first opened for further pictures and commentary
Bruce Winder is a Retail Expert, Speaker, Consultant, Professor and Entrepreneur serving a variety of clients in the retail, services and manufacturing industries. He is the co-founder and & Partner at Toronto-based Retail Advisors Network. His 25 + years experience in big retail as well as consulting and freelancing make him one of Canada’s most sought after experts in the retail field. Follow him him on LinkedIn and Twitter (@MbaWinder) or connect with him at his website www.brucewinder.com.