Adidas vs. Nike: Who’s Winning New York?

A 5% retail sales decline in offline stores last month has perpetuated the trend of a shrinking UK high street. Retail brands have to put their thinking caps on to up their game and re-imagine the offer for millennials. Where better than New York, then, to pick up some retail tips? Taking advantage of the Easter break we popped over to check who’s winning the stores game, and Adidas and Nike in particular caught our attention…

At Adidas NYC, impossible is nothing:

The Adidas flagship in NYC only launched a year ago but it has already firmly established itself as a go-to for runners, basketball players and general fitness enthusiasts.

It has redefined sport shopping, as it’s not just a shop but also a holistic sports centre. You can even check your running gait on the treadmill by using Run Genie to make sure that you’re buying the optimal shoes for your personal needs. I discovered that I have been running ‘wrong’ all these years, as my heel is very narrow and inadequate running shoes often caused bursts of plantar fasciitis. Once ‘diagnosed’ either on the indoor running track or on the treadmill you will get a precise recommendation for the optimal running pair. It convinced me to buy three pairs, so selling solutions rather than products alone seems to be a better road to a runner’s heart! Plus it’s a bit of a personality test as well, as Run Genie fitters can figure out how you run just by looking at you!

If you’re a running fan but also a creative, Adidas also offers an opportunity to find your inner artist and express yourself. Visitors can make their own personalised trainers with the name, colour, contour and pretty much every part of the shoe being visually adjusted. The kicker is that ‘sneakerheads’ visiting Adidas can pick unique colours that are only available in New York – a pretty special experience for tourists from across the pond. I got a special version made for my 14-year-old for his birthday, as a GCSE motivator.

Gifting in Adidas is extended to jerseys and t-shirts – everyone likes to add a touch of personalisation to their running or training kit and you can add your own name or the name of your hero. Their exclusive line is only available in-store but it makes the best present if you’re in town. Alternatively, you can pick out something from a number of special collaborations – my favourite was Pharrell’s with its subdued sneakers.

The Japanese created the concept of ‘kikubari’, the art of paying attention to the needs of others. Adidas shops have taken this to another level. First, the service is amazing, with each of the sales assistant able to talk their heads off on the topic of trainer tech. They can also demo brand apps, take payments and order what you want online if your item of choice is out of stock. That level of training is not often seen in London or Frankfurt shops where often the sales assistants don’t even know that the brand has an app – never mind know how to use it. Adidas store assistants can also send the items to your hotel so that shoppers like us can continue hitting Broadway unencumbered by massive loot in our shopping bags. If you’re shopping with your mates, and they are taking their time, you can just chill and watch sports on the big screens on the walls. Time flies when you’re watching the Knicks dunking shots! On occasion, Adidas will even bring out retro video games from about 1991 and then nobody wants to leave the shop till 9pm. Ace.

Nike: just doing it (wrong)?

In comparison, Adidas’s competitor Nike’s flagship on Broadway has not weathered well, as perhaps as the location is somewhat a victim of its own success. The store is smaller and overcrowded, and although every store assistant can take your money and process the purchase, so there’s no need to queue at the central till point, the store is so busy that you now have to queue to see the assistants! Nice problem to have but the place felt cramped, while product layouts were not logical, and followed an artistic visual pattern rather than user-friendly navigation. The lighting was dark and club-like, making an examination of the product rather hard and we bought dark blue trainers thinking they were black. The too-cool-for-school staff on occasion even looked as if it was all just too much hassle to help us. Oh well. It was a good reminder that even the best brands can slip up if they take customers for granted. Adidas 1 Nike 0.

Some of the Adidas innovations are taking clothes-making into performance art. Last year we visited the Berlin pop-up where Adidas’s on-site designers would body-scan you and help you ‘design’ your own sweater, choosing from an extensive set of options. Then the garment would be actually woven in-store, dried and finished by hand and was ready for collection in four hours. As much fun as it was, though, if someone cares that much they’re probably just going to knit their own sweater, so we were not sold on the concept. However, our younger colleagues owned up and told us they’d never seen anyone making clothes at all, and they were quite amazed about what’s really involved in the process – from that point of view Adidas did a great job of educating the new generation of shoppers.


Next month: We’ll be going on a retail safari in Los Angeles and will report back to you on how Nordstrom, Revolve and other luxury brands are re-inventing the retail game.

If you’re looking for a retail store update on this side of the pond, however, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us: we can help you plan your next European retail safari!