Can a socially distanced event launch a sneakerhead hub?
On July 9, international streetwear and sneaker retailer SNIPES increased its U.S. footprint with its first stateside experiential flagship, launched in a city where there are both plenty of sneakerheads and multiple experiential footwear flagships to choose from.
The new location, a store concept the retailer calls SNIPES 2.0, is opening in Downtown Brooklyn across from Barclays Center, according to sneaker trade publication Kicks on Fire. The store concept, meant to be a neighborhood hub, exclusively uses LEDs and screens for its in-store signage, eschewing cardboard stand-ups and other paper-based signage. The launch event is planned to be heavy on giveaways and will feature celebrity appearances as well — albeit virtual ones. Rapper DJ Khaled serves as the brand’s chief creative officer and will be announcing the giveaway of his own branded Air Jordan 3 via livestream.
A star-studded, experiential store launch would seem to pose challenges in the era of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic continues to limit normal shopping behavior, especially with regard to retail that relies on in-store experience.
SNIPES has accounted for this to some extent, as the store opening event will be limited to 50 percent capacity and require masks and distancing of six feet while shopping, according to Kicks on Fire.
Such things might be hard to enforce in practice, though. Yahoo reports that at the relaunch of the Nike store in London, social distancing guidelines were largely disregarded.
Even in a post-pandemic world, the competition for such a flagship could be stiff. NYC is already a hot battleground for co-opetitive urban-focused sneaker retailers positioning their flagships as “neighborhood hubs.”
Last year, Foot Locker launched its Power Store in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. The experiential outlet, which first gained traction in Europe, was one of three opened in major U.S. cities as the chain pivoted away from the mall and towards more customer-focused, standalone stores.
Nike’s six-story experiential flagship on Fifth Avenue in Midtown, also known as House of Innovation 000, is another sneakerhead destination SNIPES may be competing with, even though Nike is one of the major brands that SNIPES, like Foot Locker, carries.
- SNIPES Launches First-Ever 2.0 Concept Store In America – Kicks on Fire
- Will Foot Locker’s Power Store play ball with Nike? – RetailWire
- Crowds Ignore Social Distancing at Nike’s London Reopening + Kurt Geiger Sees Sales Bump As Stores Get Back to Business – Yahoo
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is now the right time for SNIPES to try to establish itself more firmly in the U.S. sneaker market with a brick-and-mortar flagship? How can SNIPES both differentiate itself from Nike and Foot Locker while at the same time contending with pandemic-related concerns?