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Japan's Asics brings robots to Regent Street

Pride of place in the window of the new Asics flagship store on London’s Regent Street, a metallic, shimmering robotic arm moves hypnotically back and forth. Inch by inch it draws an illustration of Asics’s signature trainer on the glass – hypnotising onlookers in store and summing up the heart of the new store’s concept: fusing technology, design, brand identity and excitement.

The global flagship store opened on 2 August and, at more than 9,000 sq ft across two floors and a mezzanine level, is the brand’s biggest in the world. Just off Oxford Circus, is bright, bold and enticing – floor-to-ceiling digital screens, vibrant LED lighting installations and mannequins clad in Asics’s star styles draw shoppers in.

The concept for the store was launched in Brussels earlier this year, however, the new Regent Street space marks the first time the Japanese sportswear brand has displayed its four sub-brands – Asics, Asics Tiger, Onitsuka Tiger and Haglofs – all in one store.

With the design of the space, Asics aimed to capture the brand’s ethos of “Sound mind, sound body”. Mannequins are made from sustainable wood and recycled materials, hydroponic plants are dotted around the space giving a relaxed feel. A juice bar, seating area, customisation station and DJ booth also feature.

The store also houses a Asics’ Motion ID analytic tool, to measure individuals’ running gait and select the best shoe for their profile. Behind the scenes there are further advances: a robotic delivery system in the stockroom locates shoes on request and delivers them to the shop floor.

In combining tech, functionality and experience, Asics’ new concept is a fittingly fresh and engaging platform for a rapidly expanding retailer.

Alistair Cameron, CEO, Asics EMEA

Alistair Cameron

Alistair Cameron

Alistair Cameron

Tell us about the new concept

This is the first time we’ve put Asics Tiger and Onitsuka Tiger, our two lifestyle brands, in the same store as Haglofs, which is our Scandinavian brand. We chose that for Regent Street because we had the space. We are able to test the benefit of lifestyle with sport. There’s a fusion between performance gear and lifestyle gear – they’re merging so fast and we really want to optimise that.

Through this new look and feel of the store we’ve achieved an increase of 30% on our clothing sales. For the year to date in the UK, we’re up 40% on comparable sales with our full-price stores.

All this has come at a time when we have a new design team in Japan, who are really bringing out the Japanese technical DNA, but also a cool factor. 

Why Regent Street?

Regent Street is one of the most important shopping streets in the world. There were a few [locations] we were looking at here, we signed for this one in April/May. It’s the fastest turnaround for our biggest store. They really worked 24/7 for 12 weeks. With our sponsorship of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations), we wanted to be open for the World Championships [which started in London on 4 August]. This is a showcase to show our Chinese or American customers what Asics at its best can look like.

What are some of the digital highlights?

We have live feeds from our “Sound Mind, Sound Body” crew of runners and the Asics FrontRunner group – another runners’ network. We started that in Germany and we’ve now gone Europe-wide with that. Their live feeds, as well as the Asics Facebook page will appear on the digital screens in the store. In addition, the Asics-owned running app Runkeeper is becoming more “Asics-ified” at the moment. In our Brussels store we have a live location feed of all runners running in Brussels at any time, and we will have that here as well.

Will this concept be rolled out further?

This will go into our new New York store on Fifth Avenue, and we also have a space in Harujuku in Tokyo. We’re looking at some other cities as well, including Paris, but there are only a few cities where we feel we can have a flagship store and London is certainly one of them.

What are your UK plans?

We will continue to open more stores and we’re going to do much more “space management” – introducing Asics shop-in-shops or elevated premium locations that are managed by us from an inventory, staff training, shop fitting point of view. We’re putting those into key retailers.

In mainland Europe there is a big push on the direct-to-consumer side. We have a new ecommerce platform coming with a much more flexible system. We’ve been working on a “fit for growth” plan, which focuses on strategic markets and accounts across Europe and the emerging markets. We have a big push to be opening stores in Russia and the Middle East and we’re also growing our direct-to-consumer and our space-managed areas – shop-in-shops which are managed by Asics from an inventory, staff training and shopfitting point of view.

 

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