By Bethany Biron
Just in time for the holiday season, Adidas opened its first flagship store in the U.S. today. The store boasts 45,000 square feet of fitness apparel and is positioned on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
For the German brand, selecting a Fifth Avenue location for its flagship was a concerted effort to further establish itself in the States, according to Jeremy Ezra, vp at RKF, a retail company that represented Adidas in securing the space. Fifth Avenue is one of the most expensive retail locations internationally, and rent on the street is only continuing to rise — Bloomberg reported that the asking price is currently $3,213 per square foot, compared to $2,075 in 2011.
“Fifth Avenue is the retail destination of choice for international brands looking to make their mark in North America.” Ezra said. “In recent years, Fifth Avenue between 49th Street to 42nd Street has come into its own, attracting major international retailers to open flagship stores. Adidas had been searching for a space on Fifth Avenue for several years, and this space enables them to make a significant impact in the North American market.”
The four-story space is Adidas’s largest store and comes on the heels of the opening of Nike’s new 55,000 square-foot store in Soho earlier this month. It also follows the announcement that Under Armour is slated to open shop on Fifth Avenue in 2019, in the former location of famed toy store FAO Schwarz.
Amelia Falco, senior designer at Gensler, the design company that collaborated with Adidas to conceptualize the store, echoed Ezra in stating that the decision to set up shop on Fifth Avenue was a strategic move to make a statement to American competitors.
“Adidas really viewed the American market as a great opportunity for more growth, business-wise,” Falco said. “For big brands to be successful in New York, they have a flagship present. They recognized the importance of brick and mortar, and Fifth Avenue.”
The store opening also expands upon the launch of the Adidas Originals flagship store in Soho earlier this summer. Originals has demonstrated success for the brand as a lifestyle line focused on nostalgic 1980s and ’90s looks, leveraging collaborations with designers and performers including Stella McCartney, Raf Simons, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West.
Falco said some of this nostalgia was brought in during the design process of the Fifth Avenue flagship. The space was designed with a classic American high school in mind, and “athlete lounges” on each floor are comprised of furniture and items sourced and salvaged from schools. It also includes a real track and turf where customers can test products.
“We wanted to harken back to that familiar big high school experience everyone grew up with [in America],” she said. “We were really intentional to get people physically moving in the space, in a way that they’re not imitating.”
The space also integrates several in-store technologies, including four customization stations in the “MiAdidas Studio” that allows consumers to make custom apparel, as well as a temporary virtual reality installation featured for the launch. However, Falco said Adidas was deliberate in reining in the digital experience so it didn’t become all-encompassing or ostentatious.
“We were really intentional in not over-digitizing the space. We wanted a big moment, and we wanted that to be rooted in sport,” she said. “The big LED screen really acts like a big focal point at the tunnel entrance. From there, there are only small digital moments that are one-on-one and help consumers to navigate the product.”
Additionally, the new store seeks to maintain a local community feel by featuring New York–based products, including a juice bar that sells beverages from Grassroots Juicery in Williamsburg. It also offers a city concierge to assist tourists visiting the store, as well as an area dubbed the “Home Kiosk” that is inspired by a stadium fan shop and is decorated with flags with the names of New York City’s five boroughs.
Regarding competition with other brands, Falco said Adidas holds significant global clout, but establishing itself in the U.S. has been a matter of differentiating, with a focus on not being overly “flashy and uptight” and an emphasis on authenticity.
“Adidas never wants to be perceived as chasing [competitors]—they really just want to differentiate themselves, and I think the store really helps show that,” she said