Nike is flexing its muscles in the fitness market with its first female-only European store.
Long associated with fashion, King’s Road in Chelsea is fast becoming a haven for sportswear retailers looking to cash in on the area’s affluent, health-conscious yummy-mummies. Following in the footsteps of independent sportswear store King’s Road Sporting Club, which traded for 21 years before closing down in April last year, yoga-based brands such as Lululemon Athletica (which took over KRSC’s store at numbers 38-42) have snapped up space over the past 18 months, joining the likes of JD and Reebok on the famous west London shopping thoroughfare.
Now Nike has chosen the street to house its first women’s-only shop in Europe, following in the footsteps of its two other women’s-only stores in Newport Beach in California and Shanghai. The 2,228 sq ft two-floor store sells Nike’s full women’s clothing and footwear offers, along with a range of bespoke services including trouser hemming, gait analysis and bra fitting.
On entering the store, shoppers find themselves in a bright and airy space with light grey walls and pale oak floors. A wall of trainers takes over the right-hand side featuring a wide selection, segmented according to their purpose, such as training, running or living. Large leather benches provide ample seating for trying on the product.
The main body of the shop floor is dotted with colourful visual merchandising displays that show off key products and sportswear trends, such as patterned leggings (£25 to £90) teamed with neon running vests (£20 to £50), and each display is supported by campaign imagery and mannequins that give customers an idea of how to wear the products. At the rear of the shop is the till and a wall of socks (£6 to £12) and shorts (£23 to £45).
In the basement a table at the bottom of the stairs displays Nike’s collaboration with department store Liberty. The brand has used a white and orange 1970s print from the retailer’s archive to create its Merlin range of Air Max trainers (£110), T-shirts (£45) and jackets (£95).
The lower ground floor also has an area dedicated to tights and leggings. The large display unit contains the different styles, with sizes and lengths from tight to skinny and classic clearly marked, making it easy for shoppers to make their selection.
The store’s bra-fitting service comes into its own at the rear of the lower ground floor, where a wall display illustrates the full offer of sports bra styles from light through to ultimate support (£22 to £55). A trained shop assistant is on hand to measure and assist shoppers in their selection.
Store manager - or “head coach” - Victoria Bryden says the boutique feel of the shop has gone down well with shoppers.
“The locals in the area have been very receptive since we opened. They love that the service is just for her. They know they can come in and be kitted out head to toe and they are comfortable here. The bra fitting offers us a point of difference to other sports retailers,” she explains.
Indeed, the boutique style is very important to the look of the store as it gives Nike a more feminine feel compared with other sports shops, and this is highlighted by the creative installations dotted throughout the interior.
Isamaya Ffrench, an illustrator and make-up artist, was commissioned to produce a piece that communicates the synergy of sport and style for the store’s basement. A map of London features British heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson as a backdrop, making reference to Nike’s roots in professional athletics. The grey wall leading shoppers downstairs has a large mural with the brand’s iconic slogan “Just Do It” spelled out in a delicate floral print in a slightly darker shade of grey.
As well as showing off Nike’s latest clothing and products, the shop is a showcase for its cutting-edge technology. A treadmill at the rear of the ground floor is used to assess customers’ gait and running styles so shop assistants can advise on the best products for individual fitness programmes.
Throughout the shop there are signs for a click-and-collect service and Nike’s activity tracker device Nike+. In the year to February 2015, female Nike+ runners across the world have collectively logged more than 50 million runs covering 170 million miles - a distance equal to circling the earth more than 6,800 times. The shop acts as a fitness hub where shoppers can book into free Nike+ Training Club classes and attend Nike+ Run Clubs. A digital community wall on the right at the rear of the ground floor allows visitors to reserve spots at all Nike running and training sessions held across London. Customers can also showcase their personal style through the Nike ID station for its bespoke trainers.
The shop, for which Nike will pay £435,000 a year over a 10-year lease, marks a step forward in the company’s efforts to expand its womenswear sales, which account for around a fifth of revenues but is growing faster than the rest of business.
Nike’s women’s business is expected to grow by $1bn (£652m) globally every year until 2017, to $7bn (£4.6bn) by the end of its 2017 financial year.
It will be hoping the King’s Road store can help Nike set this new personal best.