Birkenstock opened its first company-owned retail store in the U.S., in New York City's SoHo neighborhood, the company said on Monday. The brand added that in opening the store it was "laying the ground work for the continued growth of Birkenstock in the U.S. market."
Customers will be able to shop for shoes, boots, socks, bags and belts for women, men and kids, as well as the brand's new natural skin care line. The store also features a special gallery of limited-edition styles from designers including Rick Owens and 10 Corso Como, according to a company press release.
To advertise the new store, Birkenstock has commissioned a billboard and a social media campaign featuring fictional puppet characters sporting limited edition items, from New York-based creative director and artist Amit Greenberg, the company also said.
Brands like Nike, Champion and now Birkenstock, among others, are turning to brick and mortar, and not just e-commerce, to sell directly to customers.
The SoHo store, while a first for the U.S., is the 47th brand-owned store globally, the company said. "It is an important part of our ambition to open our own retail stores in strategic locations and vibrant neighborhoods," Birkenstock CEO Oliver Reichert said in a statement, calling New York "a key market for us."
New York is so important because the city remains "one of the few remaining fashion capitals in the world that shapes global cultural and consumer trends," Reichert said. "Being here will keep our brand vivid and will also create visibility for all the innovations in our collection towards a group of enlightened, highly influential consumers."
SoHo holds appeal for many apparel retailers. Champion Athleticwear in August expanded its physical retail footprint with a second U.S. location in the shopping district, after opening its first in Los Angeles. Also in recent months, Nike has opened an experiential store there, and BCBG Max Azria rebooted its brick-and-mortar effort with a new concept shop in SoHo.
Beyond SoHo, though, Birkenstock's new location is another example of brick and mortar's enduring value to retailers. "Online is fast, it's frictionless and it's probably cheaper," Bob Phibbs, CEO of retail consultancy The Retail Doctor, told Retail Dive in an interview. "But brick and mortar can do something that online, by design, can't. Physical stores are still the drivers of revenue — the goose that lays the golden egg is the brick-and-mortar store. Maybe they start in the store and they finish it online, but it's in the store environment where there are about 15 touchpoints that happen, and those 'yeses' collectively make a sale."
And the brand's new U.S. store opening comes at a time when holiday shoppers here seem poised to shop in stores this year more than in recent years. Some 88% of consumers overall (88% of women and 85% of men) — a six percentage-point increase from last year — will head to physical stores, according to the annual "In-Store Holiday Shopping" survey from cloud-based retail execution and workforce platform Natural Insight.