New Vans store designed as an homage to LA’s skate history

Discussion
Photo: Vans
Feb 12, 2020
Matthew Stern

Vans’ new Los Angeles store is meant to pay respect to a city that’s been possessed to skate since day one.

The location, billed as a community-driven retail and event space, has two floors and features art made by professional skateboarders and other local artists. The first floor includes an in-store skate shop with a range of products as well as the full collection of Vans Pro Skate footwear and apparel. The second floor features a space called Studio808 to facilitate exhibitions and art and design workshops.

New Vans store designed as an homage to LA’s skate history
Photo: Vans

This is not Vans’ first venture into lifestyle-focused store concepts. The brand’s experiential House of Vans flagship features not only skate gear, but a stage big enough for major bands to perform and an indoor skate park complete with a concrete bowl. There are two House of Vans locations in Chicago and London, and the brand also brings House of Vans-themed multi-day pop-up events elsewhere throughout the U.S.

New Vans store designed as an homage to LA’s skate history
Photo: Vans

From 1995 to 2019, Vans was the brand behind the multi-day Warped Tour, the longest-running touring music festival in North America, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

Focusing on lifestyle has become an increasingly big part of the retail experience, and footwear is a space where this has been especially true.

Athletic shoe brands like Nike have opened massive brick-and-mortar flagships in major retail hubs with services and technology focused on providing unique experiences and customization options attractive to the “sneakerheads” that buy, trade and collect their products. Brands have also taken the experience to mobile with apps that both extend the in-store experience and make brand events, like product “drop” scavenger hunts, possible. Multi-vendor retailers like Footlocker have begun to roll out similarly experiential locations called Power Stores and have launched similar mobile initiatives in partnership with sneaker brands.

Vans has likewise launched tools that meet its customers’ desire for personalization. It has a Vans Custom app on its website that lets visitors create customized products. It also holds online events, such as the Custom Culture shoe design contest where amateur designers have the chance to win $25,000 and have their shoe design produced by Vans.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you find most intriguing about Vans’ experiential store concepts and activities? Is the industry moving to more community-based stores or are cookie-cutter layouts and design going to remain the norm?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Specialty stores are supposed to be just that — special."
"Kudos to Vans for an innovative concept and design, the willingness to make the in-store investment, and the guts to give it a try."
"The challenge is keeping the lifestyle constant for current consumers over time while attracting new consumers."

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11 Comments on "New Vans store designed as an homage to LA’s skate history"


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Art Suriano
BrainTrust

I like the new store design and commend Vans for trying something different. Change can be excellent for a retailer if it has the right appeal, and I believe this design will cater nicely to skating enthusiasts and all loyal Vans customers. Retail has to keep things fresh and continue to find new methods that will keep existing customers happy while attracting new ones. So kudos to Vans for an innovative concept and design, the willingness to make the in-store investment, and the guts to give it a try. I believe the results will be positive, and they’ll be expanding this idea to other locations.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Storytelling! Not just about product, but about community and lifestyle. It’s a genuine conversation with real people that have a lifestyle and a mindset all their own. It’s not just “stuff.” Curated. Focused. Doesn’t pretend to be for everybody. You can relate — or not. Or just be curious. Specialty stores are supposed to be just that — special.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

This is the specialty store of the future, where selling brand is more important than selling merchandise. Their “House of Vans” I was at in Chicago was similar and, let’s face it, the Nike and Samsung stores in Manhattan are close in terms of concept. In any case, I love it. The only thing they need now is better DTC online, a few pop-up and ghost delivery units and they’ll get the “Retailer of Tomorrow” award.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

This is what we discussed a few weeks ago – what can companies do to bring a unique customer experience at the brick-and-mortar level to make people get off the couch? This is it. It is the history of a company that people can feel, touch and experience.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

Intriguing concept, approach and thoughts. Vans does this so well that we have come to expect cutting edge experiential approaches to any retailing, products and partnerships involving Vans. Good job and unique approach, Vans!

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

In specialty retail, experience is everything. Ideally, shopping is an organic extension of experience and Vans, once again, has nailed it.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

The most exciting thing about what Vans is doing is catering to the lifestyle with which their consumers want to identify. While it may be described as an LA lifestyle, it appeals to a certain consumer base outside of LA. Using events, activities, graphics, and music identified with that lifestyle to create fun events and stores is a great idea and very successful. Vans needs to continue developing that affinity for the lifestyle with younger consumers to keep their consumer base growing. On the other hand, how do you keep the lifestyle identifiable with their loyal consumers as they age? Investing in a lifestyle approach is expensive but very effective for current consumers. The challenge is keeping the lifestyle constant for current consumers over time while attracting new consumers.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust
15 days 17 minutes ago

The value of a store like this isn’t primarily what it sells the people who shop there — but as physical reminder of the brand’s history and connections (in this case to skating). That’s what NikeTown delivered (in a big way) and that’s what I expect to see from this, and other, Vans locations like it.

In an age of digital hype and shiny baubles, we forget how much more people are influenced by the physical.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

In general I’m a huge supporter of retail storytelling, community-building, and all the other things the new Vans’ concept embodies — provided there is enough of a market to support it. Cookie cutter stores – or variations on a theme – will continue to dominate for lots of reasons from build-out cost to brand compliance, but it’s nice to see somebody doing something fresh. The interesting question is whether Vans ought to be paying homage to the generation of skaters who are now 30 – 50+ or design a store for whatever the next generation will look like.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

I like when a national brand plays the “local card.” It’s not always easy, but when it works, it’s a great way to stand out, compete and grow loyal local customers. I hope Vans’ decision pays off and other brands can learn from another successful company that plays “local” well.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

The “Instant Poll” seems a little misleading, that design can become more localized, yet still remain overwhelmingly “cookie cutter” (which I think is exactly what we’ll see). Mostly what we’ll see, I think with reference to “localized,” is more like token localization — a few blown up postcards on the walls and signs proclaiming “serving XXX since 19YY.” Skating may be synonymous with L.A (?), but how many areas/businesses are so wedded to each other that any kind of meaningful connection can even be made?

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Specialty stores are supposed to be just that — special."
"Kudos to Vans for an innovative concept and design, the willingness to make the in-store investment, and the guts to give it a try."
"The challenge is keeping the lifestyle constant for current consumers over time while attracting new consumers."

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