Nike’s latest flagship store has arrived on New York’s Fifth Avenue, and with it comes a glimpse into the future of retail. An oft-trotted expression maybe, but the ‘Nike House of Innovation 000’ (its official title) is deserving.
The sheer size is audacious, 68,000 square feet, especially given that it is essentially ‘Nike ID’ (the brand’s personalization program) on a massive scale.
Dedicated to the bustle of the city, Nike has relaunched five silhouettes, curated into a ‘Noise Cancelling Pack’, each celebrating key events. For example, presently the Zoom Fly 2 has been chosen to commemorate Shalane Flanagan’s 2017 marathon victory. Released in all-white, customers are invited to customize everything, from the laces to the upper, to the infamous ‘Swoosh’.
The key difference though is that here buyers have a consultation with experts, who subsequently create the shoes on-site in labs, with the ‘hidden in plain sight’ tone of an open kitchen. For inspiration, the brand has recruited guest designers – this time around, Miami’s Gabriel Alcala injects a riot of colour.
Unlike most of the brand’s outlets this is a ‘lifestyle’ destination – a literal recognition of the confluence between sneaker culture and fashion (an area of strength for adidas in recent years). Whilst there is running gear and nods to basketball, there are no cleats, nor any soccer or gridiron shirts. Indeed, most items look destined for the catwalk rather than the race track!
This is evident on the top floor, which contains a collection of ‘Nike by You’ styles that can be tailored and configured to a customer’s measurements and liking. As with the sneakers, this is done in-store and takes around two weeks (the process seems readied for 3D printing). This ‘everyday luxury’ is emphasized in the ‘Expert Studio’, which gives Nike Plus members one-to-one service and access to exclusives.
Another central feature is an appreciation for the divergent nature of shopping. On the one hand ‘Team Nike’ staff are incredibly helpful and omnipresent. On the other, it is possible to shop entirely through the Nike app: scan QR codes to request items to be delivered to dedicated pick-up zones; ‘Ask The Expert’ for advice via the chatbot; kiosks have ‘hanger drop’ and bags; buy online using ‘shop the look’ on mannequins. It is possible to be outfitted without having spoken to a single associate.
Located on the fourth floor ‘Sneakerlab’ is a shoe enthusiasts dream! The entire level is filled with sneakers, many accompanied by original sketches, revealing the process that brought them to life in cabinets and on digital screens.
If there is one downside, it is the more ‘theatrical’ elements. For example, a central column known as the ‘Sonic Tower’ fluctuates between blasting the sound of fans and Manhattan traffic, which is frankly a bit annoying. Moreover, the hyper-stylized entryway to the ‘Sneakerlab’, set-up to look like a design studio, is nothing more than frippery. Both are far less considered than say, the mirrors that have all been tinted to echo the filters that people apply to social media posts.
Yet this is an exceptional store. In essence it is ‘customizable shopping’, in which wayfinding, product, and path to purchase can be decided by the customer. The simple strength of ‘Nike House Of Innovation 000’ was summed-up by a member of Team Nike who explained, “It’s just an experience”. Very true.