- Just a few months after the company revealed plans for a more direct-to-consumer strategy, Wilson Sporting Goods is opening its first store, in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago.
- Located in the company's hometown, its first store is 2,247 square feet and will feature a variety of sports equipment, along with unique colorways and exclusive seasonal drops, according to a company press release emailed to Retail Dive.
- The store will also feature Wilson's sportswear line, which the company launched on its DTC e-commerce channel in May. It is the first location in a "direct-to-consumer expansion" for Wilson.
Wilson is capitalizing on its well-known status as a sporting goods manufacturer to pursue a more DTC strategy for its products, including opening several flagship stores. In addition to the Chicago location, Wilson also has plans for flagships in New York, Los Angeles, Beijing and Shanghai in the coming months.
The company noted in its press release that while it has never had permanent physical stores, it has experimented with pop-ups at sporting events like the Super Bowl for "decades." Key sports events will also be important to its permanent stores, with Wilson planning to drop exclusive products tied to those moments.
Like many flagships, Wilson seems to have gathered inspiration from the experiential. The store in Chicago will offer limited edition products, like a Chicago-inspired colorway of the Wilson A2000 baseball glove, will feature certain "technological elements" to enhance the customer experience, and will host special events where customers can have rackets and ball gloves customized in stores.
Engaging the senses seems to play a heavy role in the store. The company's long history will be displayed throughout the store for a "museum-like" feel, a leather-inspired scent will fill the store and consumers are encouraged to interact with the store's music playlist. The company describes the store as a "test lab" for gathering feedback and input from customers.
"Following the launch of our Wilson Sportswear line earlier this summer, it was important that we introduce physical retail locations so that our athletes can experience and interact with our sports equipment and apparel in person," Gordon Devin, president of Wilson Sportswear, said in a statement. "Our first-ever retail location centers around Wilson's heritage, serving as a physical 'love letter' to our city."
The store mirrors similar elements in other sports-focused store concepts. The Nike Live fleet of stores relies in part on exclusive product offerings that often reflect the neighborhood the store is located in, and services have become an increasingly prevalent part of store concepts. Dick's Sporting Goods, for example, which also sells a large amount of sports equipment, offers baseball glove steaming and racquet restringing at its experiential House of Sport flagship.
Wilson also joins a growing list of sports brands trying to take advantage of selling direct to consumer. Both Nike and Adidas are pursuing DTC strategies and culling wholesale partners in the process.