This season, thanks to the Nike running store in the Flat Iron district, I've been happily sporting a few pairs of Nike's and I've made a few satisfying trips to that location where I first noticed Nike's new commitment to service. So, when I read about the new Soho flagship I was so excited to get over to see this new breed of Nike stores.
In perfect form, when you walk in your senses are overloaded and you're transported to what feels like a pro-level athletic event. The booming music puts you in the middle of a half-time event at an NBA game but you're not looking down from the bleachers, you're looking up from the floor. A massive video wall welcomes you in and draws a clear line in the sand. Nike SoHo is 'at your service' in four very specific ways..which they list. While the store reinforces the commitment to service, it's the employees or "Athletes" as they call them who do a great job delivering on the promise.
This new flagship seems to mark a new chapter in Nike's story departing from the brand temples of the past. It is literally larger-than-life occupying four floors in SoHo but it's more authentic and it means business. It's kinetic and feels more active and in-motion rather than the staged drama of it's predecessors. As the guest, you're no longer the spectator. You're 'in the game, on the floor, in the match.' Teams of mannequins tower over you like the 'gods of the sports' without being specific to any one athlete. Could that be you? Video puts you in a moment or you see your reflection in the surfaces and you're part of the picture. The store interacts with you passively and actively. You're among the athletic gods but you're next to them, rubbing elbows, comparing your height to theirs. Product (as technology) is hero and reinforced around every corner. Yet while the soft apparel product is positioned as technical, but approachable, the technical product is positioned as soft and human. They've brilliantly gone anti-tech with the Nike / Apple watch and presented it in human non-intimidating super simple terms that stand out against the technical apparel environment.
In the last year, I've done a lot of work around guest experiences that connect authentically with the community and that's exactly what Nike is trying to do here. When I spoke to one of the Athletes she said, "We are here to make sure you guys in the community, in Soho, have what you need." So while it sits in a global tourist destination its message is local. Welcome Soho.
It was an inspiring visit to the Nike Flagship SoHo. I felt genuinely welcomed, engaged and inspired. Have a look at the photos and see for yourself but you cannot have this experience through any digital means. It's only through a visit that you will you have this experience. Isn't that the bar that all retail stores need to hit today?
Comments from my Nike Running Store experience - Flat Iron District
One thing that immediately struck me, beyond the must-have styles and wonderment of how they continue to advance the design of tennis shoes, was the onslaught of personal service. It is clear that Nike has implemented a service program defined by a "personal" level of service for everyone. I'm not a known 'big spender' nor do I call ahead and ask for a personal shopper, but that's exactly what I got at the Nike Running Store and I walked away feeling like I now have a go-to store and guy who would do anything to make sure I'm happy with the shoes on my feet.
What did he do? What you would expect however he actually did it. He got to know me, stayed with me through dozens of considerations, offered advice and a bottle of water and shared information on the local Nike running and work-out clubs. He made it clear that this was "Nike...at your service." Bottom line, he be-friended me in a normal not too overly friendly or weird sort of way and then wrapped up my shoes in a great presentation and sent me on my way.