Renarts has had a strong run as an athletic sit-and-fit store since 1981. But the shopping habits of the sneaker consumer have changed, and so has the Long Island, N.Y.-based retailer.
To win over a more savvy, sports-inspired shopper, Renarts has rolled out a new store format for its two doors that’s atypical in the industry. The layout embraces sports fandom, presented with sleek design elements repurposed from former athletic venues.
“We’re a premium execution of a neighborhood sneaker store,” said Ankur Amin, who co-owns Renarts with his brother Nick. “We fall some place in the middle of a mom-and-pop neighborhood store and a boutique, filling a void in the market for elevated shopping.”
But this shift away from a traditional model has caused confusion for some of Renarts’ brand partners.
“Categorically, we’re a one-off,” Amin explained. “The challenge is to get our vendor partners to understand: Are we a mom-and-pop neighborhood store or a boutique? The build-out is premium and could house boutique or cutting-edge products, as long as it’s within our playground of athletics-inspired.”
One brand that does support the new direction is Adidas. “They’re telling stories that are rooted in sport, but through a lifestyle lens,” said Leo Rodriguez, account executive at Adidas Originals. “There are not a lot of retailers that can accomplish that seamlessly, from their storytelling to build-outs to collaborations.”
The idea for the format was conceived in 2012 and slowly developed at Renarts’ original East Northport storefront. The concept came to fruition this year, when Amin moved his Huntington Village door to a heavier-trafficked area, in South Huntington. The storefront opened in January and was built with the new design in mind. “This location is a little more ambitious. It’s more central to the Island and there are more access points,” Amin explained.
In addition to the design refresh, Renarts also is changing its product strategy. Doors will no longer push the same sneakers found in big-box stores. Instead, consumers will see a carefully curated selection of premium, fashion-forward athletics-inspired footwear.
Sound familiar? Indeed, Amin co-owns two New York-based boutiques, Extra Butter and Rise, which also deliver hard-to-find kicks to an elevated consumer. However, Amin believes that the new Renarts stores will not cannibalize his other businesses. “Our plan is that, even if [our banners] ended up on one block in any city in the world, they could draw different people,” Amin said. “Even if they’re selling the same product, they’re speaking to different people, different cliques.”
What’s next for Renarts is expansion. “My goal is to take Renarts way past our own zip code,” he said. “I hesitate to say national, but I don’t think that’s out of the realm of possibility.”
The retailer is seeing strong sales growth, registering a 25 percent increase from 2015 to 2016, led mainly by demand for Adidas products. The brand is its bestseller, particularly the Adidas athleisure runner and trainer styles, including the EQT and the NMD.
Renarts also has experienced a boost in online sales, although Amin pointed out revenue is still split 70-30, favoring brick-and-mortar purchases.
Regardless of its future growth, Amin said, the retailer’s mom-and-pop feel is never going away. “We want to be rooted in community,” he said. “We present ourselves in the most authentic way when we become a neighborhood store.”