Nike opened its latest small-format Nike Live store in Eugene, Oregon, on Thursday, as the athletics retailer continues to emphasize its DTC strategy. Dubbed Nike by Eugene, the location joins three other Nike Live concepts in Los Angeles, Tokyo and New York, according to details emailed to Retail Dive.
The Oregon store, located in Nike's birthplace, will reflect the retailer's history in Eugene through the store design. For example, the store will have a Eugene run map customers can pick up that points out sites of importance to Nike and imagery of athletes with ties to Eugene.
The latest addition to the Nike Live fleet takes learnings from its predecessors, according to the company, and will feature several digital and convenience-focused services, including BOPIS and curbside pickup. The retailer said over the summer that it had plans for up to 200 small-format stores like Nike Live.
Nike remains clear on its priorities of leading with digital and owned stores, including a focus on store concepts like Nike Live, first tested in 2018. The neighborhood stores emphasize localization and community, tailoring the assortment, design and community engagement elements to what customers in the area want most.
In Eugene, new assortments will drop every three weeks, and the store will also offer a selection of University of Oregon merchandise. The main welcome area will serve as a meeting place for running groups and other athletes to meet "when it's safe to do so," the company said. New arrivals and employee picks will be featured at the front of the store, and the store will build relationships with local organizations that encourage kids to be active.
As with the other Nike Live stores, though, a large part of the focus is on offering digitally-enabled services that pair with the retailer's app to make membership more compelling. A digital vending machine dubbed the "Unlock Box," which lets members redeem free products and gifts, will be a feature of the store, as it has in others. Customers will also be able to text store associates about product availability, recommendations and current offerings.
With the pandemic accelerating consumer reliance on digital, Nike took the past year to accelerate its digital-focused strategy as well. The key piece of its Consumer Direct strategy is to emphasize Nike's stand-alone retail stores, including Nike Live and House of Innovation, as well as the company's digital business, and a concurrent movement away from wholesale. In fact, a report a few months after the next phase of the strategy was announced suggested Nike had moved quickly to shutter certain wholesale accounts.
"The global pandemic has made it clear that consumer behavior is changing rapidly, providing the opportunity for us to accelerate the pace of our transformation," CEO John Donahoe said on a conference call in June about the strategy. "Over the past few years, we have shifted from a legacy, wholesale distribution model to investment in a model that gives our consumers a more premium shopping experience."
The shifts came with layoffs shortly after and a new store concept just a month following the announcement.
As the athletics retailer moves further into creating its ecosystem of digitally-enabled stores, it's also benefiting from ship-from-store capabilities at the new Nike Live store, the company said. Those kinds of online-to-offline capabilities are a focus for the retailer in continuing to expand its fleet. Chief Financial Officer Matt Friend said on a December earnings call that the retailer planned to open 30 stores in the next two quarters.