Nike Is Putting Consumers First — Here’s What That Means When You Shop Its Stores

When Nike launched its first House of Innovation in Shanghai in October, the sportswear giant was already gearing up for the new concept store’s opening in the heart of New York.

Despite debuting a month after the China outpost, the Manhattan location was dubbed House of Innovation 000 (Shanghai was 001) — a sprawling 68,000-square-foot, six-floor space that promises visitors a peek into some of the brand’s most cutting-edge creations in an experiential retail environment.

“Consumers expect more from brands in the digitally led world,” said Cathy Sparks, global VP and GM of Nike Direct stores. “They want to know that we’re listening to them, that we care about them, that we share the same values. It’s not enough to just interact and transact with consumers. We need to build deep connections that last a lifetime.”

The executive, who boasts a 22-year career with the Beaverton, Ore.-based company, shed more light on the store concept at WWD’s Retail 2030 forum on Wednesday.

Each floor in the House of Innovation, she explained, was designed to provide customers with unique experiences — beginning with the Speed Shop, which offers quick access to the brand’s extensive lineup of products, and ending with the Expert Studio for NikePlus members, who are able to enjoy personalized services through one-on-one appointments with “store athletes.”

Other levels in the store include the Arena, with styles and installations that rotate regularly; the Women’s and Young Athletes Product Zone; a corresponding Men’s Product Zone; and the Nike Sneaker Bar, which Sparks describes as a “consumer favorite.”

“[It’s where people] can come in, have a seat, chat with our store team, who will likely offer them a kombucha from the local coffee shop down the street that’s in a fridge right behind the bar — and provide the fastest sneaker-selling service in the country,” she said.

Ultimately, Nike’s strategy rests on a four-part framework: inspiration, convenience, personalization and validation. From viral campaigns like Serena Williams’ “Dream Crazier” ad to the Nike by Melrose hub (a digital-meets-physical store created for local NikePlus members in Los Angeles), the brand plays a “consumer-direct offense” — by uniting e-commerce and brick-and-mortar to serve consumers with the best of Nike’s offerings.

“No one knows what the future of retail and sport will hold,” Sparks said. “What I believe is that ours will be consumer-led and take us all the way back to where we started — full of a whole lot of crazy dreams.”

Nike’s next House of Innovation launches in Paris in the winter.

Watch FN’s interview with Nike trainer Joe Holder.

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