Wilson Sporting Goods wants new SoHo store shoppers to get in the game – WWD

With its New York flagship opening Friday, Wilson Sporting Goods is trying to entice shoppers with a multi-sport assortment that has room for a little impromptu practice.

The 6,400 square foot flagship features an atrium designed to inspire play and is named Thomas E. Wilson Park in honor of the company’s founder. Shoppers will find a full line of sports merchandise, including official National Basketball Association and WNBA basketballs; the official ball of the National Football League “The Duke” and the main tennis racquets like the Pro Staff and the Clash, among others.

In addition to the brand’s sports-inspired lifestyle apparel, consumers can consult or hire the services of a full-time racquet stringing specialist. The customization of leather balls, a golf simulator and the customization of gloves are among the value-added services that will be offered in the new space.

In an interview on Tuesday, Wilson Sportswear President Gordon Devin said creating such a playful retail environment felt intuitive, “given that we are who we are. We are a brand that has always been about sports. Creating a traditional retail store would not seem intuitive. »

Located in the heart of SoHo on lower Broadway, the store is in a commercialized part of the neighborhood that is decidedly busier than it was around this time last year, when New York retailers and businesses were just coming back to life after the pandemic. close. Recalling the deal for the store at the time, “when New York was dark,” Devin said, “no one was there. Restaurants were looking to stay in business with makeshift shacks on the sidewalks. There were so many vacancies everywhere it was post-apocalyptic.

Along with Thomas E. Wilson Park, the store has a transformable mall that takes up approximately 25% of the store’s total. Consumers can shoot a few hoops, test out the tennis hitting wall, or participate in other in-store activities. The idea is to try out a racquet, play a little pickle ball, shoot the new WNBA basketball, or throw a soccer ball.

Early in the store’s construction, the team wondered if consumers would ever want to return to the dressing rooms or buy something that others had touched, Devin said. Staffing, merchandising, inventory management and packaging were considered with a focus on health and safety.

The New York flagship embodies the brand’s heritage.
Courtesy of Wilson

A year ago, the prospect of opening a store this size was daunting, but after finding the outpost with its atrium, executives felt it was the right thing to do.

Outposts of Lululemon, Nike, Adidas, Kith, The North Face and Arc’teryx are nearby, and Wilson aims to absorb some of their indirect consumer traffic. Devin noted that Target is opening a store on Wilson’s block, which has a Prada store at the other end. He declined to specify Wilson’s annual sales.

With 1,000 employees worldwide, Wilson takes no position on their vaccination status. Acknowledging reports that Nike and Columbia Sportswear are taking steps to potentially lay off some employees, who fail to get vaccinated, Devin said Wilson “definitely won’t go so far as to say we’re going to lay people off.”

With various facilities across the United States, the company must be “super respectful” of the people who are employed and the laws under which they work, he said. “We are putting measures in place that help our staff do their jobs in a safe environment and keep them and everyone else together, including their families and loved ones,” Devin said.

Sports of all kinds have benefited from the pandemic shutdown, and tennis is one of them. “Being locked down in our communities or our homes has made many of us realize how much we appreciate, love and need these physical moments,” Devin said. “There are certain sports like tennis that are really riding that wave.”

A rendering of the new Soho store.

A render of the SoHo store.
Courtesy of Wilson

After opening its first local store in Chicago last year, Wilson is exploring other locations in Manhattan, Chicago and Los Angeles. The assortment focuses on high-end products from Wilson. Expected women’s bestsellers in the store include skirts and tank tops with built-in bras. For men, shirts, tech shorts and travel pants should be solid pieces, Devin said.

The company recruited New York artist Greg Lamarche to create a graffiti mural, commemorating Wilson’s sporting legacy and his love for the city. Devin said: “What drives all of us at Wilson is that we believe sports make people better and truly sports make the world a better place. And athletes come in different sizes, shapes and levels. »

Noting how much they have in common is a drive to want to better themselves and their communities, he said: “That athletic mindset doesn’t just exist among elite athletes. It exists, for example, in artists who are motivated by similar things. This whole idea of ​​breaking down stereotypes and barriers is one of the greatest things about sport. That’s what we strive for and it also exists in areas like art.

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