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Retail experiences: Sportswear for professionals and the mainstream market

By Guest Contributor


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Climbing Wall at Dick's Sporting Goods House of Sports (2021) Credits: Dick's

Sports brands face the unique challenge of serving two very different customer groups: Professional athletes, who perform at the highest level and need the best products to do so, and the mainstream market, which increases sales volumes. This duality requires a differentiated brand strategy that effectively addresses both target groups.

In recent years, many sports brands have decided to move closer to the successful textile brands and apply similar strategies in the retail sector in order to become more attractive to the fashionable everyday person. However, adapting to the mainstream without diluting the brand's core values is a complex task for many sports brands. The expansion of the product range to include fashionable collections suitable for everyday use has made access to the mass market easier, but has also weakened the connection to the original target group of top performers. This development threatens the authenticity and credibility of the brand, an effect that is exacerbated by excessive customisation to the mass market.

From DNA to experience

To reverse this trend, it is essential to focus on the brand essence, both in terms of product offering and retail presentation. The challenge is to maintain technical superiority and brand values while creating innovative and customer-centric retail experiences. To stand out, brands need to preserve their unique DNA while integrating modern retail concepts centred on technology, sustainability and local communities. Beyond pure architecture and décor, the product experience is critical to engaging the target audience.

17,000 square metre grass pitch and running track as part of Dick's Sporting Goods House of Sports Credits: Dick's

Sports and performance items in particular, which are intended to lead to better performance and ultimately a result, have an advantage in retail: they need to be tested, tried out and compared in order to make a good decision. It doesn't matter whether the aim is to climb a mountain, stay healthy in extreme temperatures, cover long distances in a way that is easy on the joints or have maximum freedom of movement when practising sports.

Whether it's the French sports retailer Decathlon with its open architecture that invites you to try things out, the US model Dick's Sporting Goods House of Sports with a 2000 square metre grass pitch, running track, climbing wall, batting cages and golf simulations or the US sports retailer Scheels, which offers a saltwater aquarium, mini ice hockey pitch and an archery range in its flagship store - sport and the purchase of the relevant items can actually be experienced. By providing cold chambers, the purchase of outdoor gear for extreme temperatures becomes an actual experience and not just a theoretical purchase decision. All of this helps to appeal to both actual athletes and interested amateur athletes who want to get involved.

Cold chamber with thermal camera (left) in UYN's research and development laboratory, which is also accessible to consumers. Credits: UYN

In addition to the direct experience on site, brands can ensure a professional and authentic brand presence by providing technical information and multimedia content. Ultimately, the aim is to show consumers relatively simply what they can achieve with the help of the product and to offer them exactly the right product for the respective application. Links with digital channels, on-demand content and omnichannel integration make sense.

Focus on the core target group

Addressing the original target group is crucial for the long-term success of a brand. By precisely understanding and serving the needs of these users, brands can secure their leading position in the long term. True to the motto "I want to shop where the professionals shop", demand-driven mass penetration becomes possible. The "brand we belong to" becomes a "space we belong to" - and the shop becomes a place for unique brand staging.

About the author
Micha Klein is executive director Brand Spaces at Liganova, the innovation leader for brand and retail experiences. With almost 20 years of experience in retail design, Klein is responsible for the agency's spatial concepts, designs and installations for clients in the lifestyle, sporting goods, automotive, luxury, fashion and retail sectors - from national and international retail campaigns to flagship and programmatic brand spaces.
Dick's Sporting Goods