Feb 6, 2020
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In sports retail, shop-in-shop is going out of style

Feb 6, 2020

At the international sports trade show in Munich, the majority of brands are presenting their innovative collections for Winter 2020/21 before the show’s end on Wednesday. Having welcomed more than 80,000 visitors last year, the event attracts retailers from all across Europe who are looking for game-changing products to boost their sales next winter. Even so, during a conference questioning the future of retail, some key points were made for how to best respond to the demands of consumers.

The premium sports area at NK depatment store in Stockholm - NK - NK

“I believe that there is a lack of confidence in how well we know the market and that we don’t consider the data enough,” said Stephan Hagenbusch, the vice-president of international sales at Black Diamond.  "We are based in Austria and in these last few years, many specialists have closed. Instinctively, we have a tendency to believe that our clients turn to other sources, such as big chains and online businesses. But in reality, other industries, like tech, travel and leisure, have taken away part of our clients’ budget. It presents a challenge to both brands and retailers alike."

Methods of consumption are evolving so quickly and in order to attract a new generation of consumers, stores must change their approach. They must engage with technology for the sake of creating a link between these two things. However, they should also look elsewhere: “You should find your target audience and know it by heart,” explained Andreas Mayer, a German journalist specializing in sport retail. “You must be the source of inspiration as well as the place of recognition.” This argument speaks to the evolution of sport consumerism, according to the panel of the round-table discussion held by Anny Cardinahl and ODLX.

“Ten years ago, when someone arrived at Chamonix on Saturday, they planned their ascent of Mont Blanc for that same Thursday. It would be their only objective. Today, the athlete will dedicate one day to mountain biking, another to one to climbing and possibly go on a mountaineering expedition. What matters in sports now is being part of a community, and not so much the activity itself. This sense of community is seen in fitness, with the emerging cross-fit trend, or in the interspersed conversations that take place during indoor rock climbing.”

Nowadays, it’s less about being athletic for the sake of it, and more about sharing this experience with others in a meaningful way. In order to entice athletes, stores will have to understand this approach and incorporate it as part of their philosophy. Stores could become points of contact within towns or in the neighborhoods of big cities, if they begin to share these goals and expectations. This is becoming all the more obvious for specialists and according to social network trends.

“We have both specialists and generalists working on our network,” explained Niko Shulz, the category manager at Sport 2000 International. “A precise approach isn’t limited to the range of products. It’s also how you communicate your vision to your customers. The community continues to grow and we must turn to the data to get a better sense of how stores come into play.”

Clients of outdoor sporting products have followed in the footsteps of fashion retailers, claiming that nothing compares to the in-store experience.

But certain methods seem to be losing ground: “The shop-in-shop tradition of displaying a great range of products no longer corresponds to what clients expect, even in department stores,” commented Marc Nylander, the developer of the premium sports section at the NK Stockholm department store.

His selection is presented in a very clean-cut fashion and features products from Pantagonia, La Sportiva, Black Diamond and Nike. These are completed by other up-and-coming brands, like Satisfy running and Blak Yak.

“This isn’t fashion sportswear. These are professional products and gear, meant to enhance real experiences. There just aren’t pictures of mountains, forests or logos around. Essentially, we’ve applied the expectations of the fashion world to that of sports, prioritizing big open spaces, product presentation and store location. For example, spacious changing rooms with large mirrors have been added. Our target audience is made up of stylish city-dwellers, immersed in the new health trends, but who also share an appreciation for running and hiking."

The store, thus, becomes a curator, focusing on its selection of products, which remains small and highly specialized. Brands are better able to position themselves, highlighting their expertise, their specific style and their scope.

“As a brand, it is important for our products and what they offer to have visibility,” explained Stephan Hagenbusch of Black Diamond. "But oftentimes, stores will have their own narratives and their own style. As a result, shop-in-shop is no longer as important. What matters to a brand is the balance between direct sales, e-commerce and multi-brands. There’s friction when the same product is displayed across all these channels. Segmentation is essential for any brand, and must be done for its product selection across all channels.”

In order to put these changes into effect, brands and retailers have great tools at their disposal since outdoor and sporting products blend together different aspects of society. There is equally a stronger link between fashion and sports nowadays. To benefit from this, the goal will be to create more meaningful discussions that go beyond mere discounts. Retailers need storytelling and brands need to partner with them in order to take root and thrive.

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