Wilson Sporting Items Desires New SoHo Retailer Customers to Get within the Sport – WWD

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With the opening of its flagship store in New York City on Friday, Wilson Sporting Goods is trying to appeal to shoppers with a multi-sport range that leaves room for a little spontaneous practice.

The 6,400-square-foot flagship includes an atrium area designed to encourage play and is named Thomas E. Wilson Park in honor of the company’s founder. Shoppers will find a full line of athletic products including official basketball federations from the National Basketball Association and the WNBA; the official ball of the National Football League “The Duke” and among others leading tennis rackets such as Pro Staff and Clash.

In addition to the brand’s sports-inspired lifestyle apparel, consumers can enlist the services of a full-time racquet stringing specialist. Leather ball customization, a golf simulator and glove customization are among the value-added services offered in the new spaces.

In an interview Tuesday, Wilson Sportswear President Gordon Devin said that creating such a playful retail environment feels intuitive “given the fact that we are who we are. We are a brand that has always been about sport. Starting a traditional retail business would not feel intuitive.”

Located in the heart of SoHo on lower Broadway, the store is in a commercialized neighborhood that’s significantly busier than it was last year at this time, when New York retailers and businesses were just bouncing back to life after the pandemic shutdown. “No one was around,” Devin recalled closing the deal for the store back “when New York was grim,” Devin said. Restaurants considered how to stay in business with makeshift shacks on sidewalks. There were so many vacancies everywhere that it felt post-apocalyptic.”

With the Thomas E. Wilson Park, the store has a convertible center that occupies about 25 percent of the entire store. Consumers can shoot a few hoops, test out the tennis racket, or participate in other in-store activities. The idea is to try a racquet, play a little cucumber ball, shoot the new WNBA basketball ball, or throw a soccer ball around.

Early on in the store expansion, the team considered whether consumers would ever want to go back to the fitting rooms or buy something others had touched, Devin said. Staffing, merchandising, inventory management and packaging have been considered with an emphasis on health and safety.

The New York flagship plays up the brand’s heritage.
Courtesy of Wilson

A year ago, the prospect of opening a store of this size was daunting, but after finding the outpost with its atrium, executives thought it was the right move.

Outposts for Lululemon, Nike, Adidas, Kith, The North Face, and Arc’teryx are nearby, and Wilson intends to absorb some of their exuberant consumer traffic. Devin noted that Target is opening a store on Wilson’s block that has a Prada store on the other end. He declined to pinpoint Wilson’s annual sales.

With 1,000 employees worldwide, Wilson does not take a hard stance on their vaccination status. Acknowledging reports that Nike and Columbia Sportswear are taking steps to potentially fire some employees who don’t get vaccinated, Devin said Wilson “certainly doesn’t go as far as saying we’re laying people off.”

With various facilities across the US, the company has to be “very respectful” of workers and the laws they work under, he said. “We are taking steps to help our employees do their jobs in a safe environment and to protect them and everyone else, including their families and loved ones,” Devin said.

Sports of all kinds have benefited from the pandemic shutdown, and tennis makes the list. “Being locked in our communities or homes has made so many of us realize how much we enjoy, love and need these physical moments,” Devin said. “There are certain sports, like tennis, that are really riding this wave.”

A representation of the SoHo business.
Courtesy of Wilson

After opening his first store in his hometown of Chicago last year, Wilson is exploring additional locations in Manhattan, Chicago and Los Angeles. The range focuses on Wilson’s premium signature products. Expected women’s bestsellers in store include skirts and tank tops with built-in bras. For men, shirts, technical shorts and travel pants are likely to be strong pieces, Devin said.

The company hired New York artist Greg Lamarche to create a graffiti mural commemorating Wilson’s sporting heritage and love for the city. Devin said: “What really drives all of us at Wilson is that we believe that sport makes better people and that sport really does make a better world. And athletes come in all sizes, shapes and levels.”

Noting that their commonality is what drives them to want to improve themselves and their communities, he said, “This sporting mindset doesn’t just exist in elite athletes. It exists, for example, with artists who are motivated by similar things. This whole idea of ​​breaking down clichés and barriers is one of the most beautiful things about sport. That’s what we’re striving for and it exists in areas like art too.”