Why Paragon Sports Retooled Its Shoe Floor

Paragon Sports has more than a century of expertise in athletic and outdoor shoes. But store formats separating different product categories have prevented the New York City retail standout from capitalizing on the overall footwear market.

To bolster its in-store footwear presence, Paragon unveiled its Dept. 1908 concept in mid-April. The format change, with a name that pays homage to the retailer’s history, brings all segments together in one space.

“We were challenged with people seeing the whole environment,” Jeff Carroll, divisional merchandise manager at Paragon Sports, explained
to Footwear News. “We had people that shop with us regularly for running or for casual sneakers that didn’t know we had outdoor footwear upstairs, and vice versa.”

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A look inside Dept. 1908.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Dept. 1908.

Peter Zappala, VP of specialty sales at New Balance, believes the format change will give a boost to Paragon’s overall footwear sales.

“This will help them on the multiple-sales side of the equation,” he said. “If somebody is buying a performance outdoor shoe and it’s not adjacent to running or lifestyle product, that’s a missed opportunity to sell more than one pair to that consumer. This plan shows a wider breadth.”

Rather than just reorganizing the floor plan, Paragon opened a new entrance for Dept. 1908 on 17th Street, allowing it to feel like there’s a new business on the block.

“The new 17th Street entrance, and combining our athletic and outdoor footwear departments within this special space, was to make this feel like a new footwear store, a new elevated experience,” said Zachary Blank, COO of Paragon Sports.

Paragon Sports Dept. 1908
Footwear featured in Dept. 1908.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Dept. 1908.

Dept. 1908 will stock anywhere from 60 to 80 brands, throughout all footwear categories, at a given time, housing roughly 2,500 SKUs within its devoted 5,000 square feet of retail space.

Blank said the location would continue to feature new brands, which Carroll confirmed could number as many as two per season. One recent addition to the Dept. 1908 brand mix is Gola Classics.

And although Paragon is known for housing the best in technical athletic and outdoor footwear, Carroll explained that the retailer’s best-performing category at the moment is lifestyle. Leading the way are looks from such brands as Adidas, Vans, Converse and New Balance.

“We’re a leader in running and training and the technical side of things, that was our bread and butter. But we’ve been getting more play on the lifestyle side,” Carroll said. “That’s why we featured lifestyle at the entrance. So many customers know us as a technical-expertise store, and we wanted to let them see that we go deeper than that.”

Paragon Sports Dept. 1908
Outdoor looks inside Dept. 1908.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Dept. 1908.

Although Dept. 1908 is Paragon’s internal footwear shop, Blank said that opening separate stores under the new banner in the future is being discussed.

“We view it as a possibility, but at the moment, we’re focused on elevating the consumer experience within Paragon Sports,” he explained.
“But it’s worth considering at some point.”

Paragon Sports Dept. 1908
Lifestyle and basketball sneakers inside Dept. 1908.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Dept. 1908.

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