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Source: New Balance Opens New Retail Concept in Boston
“This store represents a big step forward in the way we think about our retail environment, featuring a much Athletics, more focused collection built specifically for the younger consumer,” said Ian Fitzpatrick, Senior Director of Global Brand Strategy and Operations at New Balance.
I wrote the following post in 2016… 7 years ago I was explaining how burned out I was on sneaker retail. It’s been an ongoing problem from the 2000s til now. Sneaker retail is wack. I could have stated this in a more eloquent way, but I have to be honest. I can’t stand walking into sneaker retail locations. One of the major issues is that every store looks the same. The visual merchandising is built around the least effort it takes to present 400 different sneakers to a consumer. For youth culture this is fine. Being able to walk into a store and just stand in front of a wall is enough. I’m an older sneaker enthusiast though. I don’t necessarily want the music in the store loud asf or cursing me out and it’s a bit awkward to be standing in front of the sneaker wall and being treated like I’m not supposed to be there by some 16-year-old who doesn’t know jack about the sneakers they are selling. Resale shops aren’t any better. Seeing 100 of the same hyped resale kicks in plastic wrap is a sterile, Echo experience. The spaces aren’t inviting.
New Balance Fresh Foam Crag v2 Brown Black Blue Mujeres EU 40.5
When I wrote the post on what brands can learn from indie retail, I meant traditional sneaker retail as well. I’ve expanded the discussion over the years because of my analysis of just who is actually buying sneakers now. I’ve written about the shifting demographics of sneaker culture. In these analyses I’ve celebrated Kith as a standard for all of sneaker retail. The merchandising for Kith online and the layout of the stores combine to live across segments and age groups. Kith can deliver product to younger sneakerheads, but at the same time they understand that the customer with the most disposable income is actually a bit older:
Dope S–t I Like: Kith Announces New Bergdorf Goodman Store & Collection | Kith NYC
There is a reason Kith has collections at Bergdorf Goodman and their ads feature Bryan Cranston and Jerry Seinfield. In the article above on “Why Kith could IPO,” The Lox are featured in the collection imagery. The Lox isn’t catering to youth culture. That’s catering to me. Why am I leading with a conversation about Kith and how that store looks? I could easily discuss one of the best sneaker culture retail locations ever created that was disrupted by Covid. SERIES from Bodega was perfect in every way, for people like me:
Series by Bodega: A New Way of Retailing | What Retail Can Learn From Bodega
I am stressing one point in this post; elevated retail isn’t for the young consumer. The fact that New Balance just changed the game with their latest retail space and their Global Brand Strategy Senior Director is sharing that this new store is for “younger” consumers is puzzling. Unless “younger” means 30 something, New Balance has just missed an opportunity to show love to a segment that was already rocking with New Balance before they decided to deliver collections to Joe Freshgoods and Salehe. Which is interesting as well because those two collaborators, like Teddy Santis, are all in their 30s and creeping into their 40s soon. Look at the pictures of this space New Balance just created.
New Balance just created the retail store concept that I’ve been saying would change the entire industry. Unfortunately, they believe it’s “built specifically for the younger consumer.” The store looks like it was put together by a team that subscribes to Uncrate, buys apparel from Taylor Stitch and eats at restaurants which use locally sourced ingredients, that’s not a diss. New Balance created a store for me, and then basically said “nah son, you’re too old to come in this spot,” although I’m from the generation of “Where’d You Get Those?” I’m from the generation that rocked Saucony, New Balance, LeCoq Sportif, Ellesse, Diadora and Puma. I’m from the generation that created the words def, dope, and fresh and the people I know still like to look fresh and fly. I can’t stand walking into sneaker retail because the people there don’t know a 547 from a 990. They don’t know a neutral training shoe from a stability running shoe. They only know the latest Js. They are not going to sit at a table like in the picture above and have a conversation about the books on the table or the materials utilized in this store, but if it’s for the younger generation, then so be it. Maybe I’m being sensitive… then again, I recently wrote about the local New Balance store in an article on the Kawhi III:
Three Ways ‘The Kawhi III’ is Like the Air Jordan 3 and One Reason it Might not Hit
In this post I shared this comment, “In my region, the New Balance store carries the Kawhi, but the store has an antiquated visual appearance, and the customer service isn’t great. Its family owned and you can sense that the store doesn’t have a diverse consumer base because of how awkward the engagement is by the people there. The Kawhi has very little merchandising in that retail location.” That store feels old and I’m younger than the orthotic crowd that visits that location, maybe this is for me, if I lived in Boston. For now, I’ll stick to ordering online unless NB takes this concept into smaller, intimated formats with premium product. I can see it.