NEW YORK — Adidas has opened its first U.S. performance center store in Las Vegas, a retail concept intended to show the brand’s sport merchandise in a minimalist design setting.

The unit marks the start of a 15-store rollout, with openings scheduled for the performance stores and the Adidas Heritage retail concept.

“This is completely different from anything we have done before,” Kerry Barnes, director of retail at Adidas America, said in an interview. “This concept is designed to give us a stronger brand impact and really get the Adidas name out there.”

The company plans to open its next performance store in lower Manhattan next year at Broadway and Houston Streets, Barnes said, with the rest of the units to open over the next two years.

But don’t expect to see Adidas stores sprouting in malls throughout the U.S. Barnes said retail business accounts for about 9 percent of sales for Adidas America and plans call for it to grow to about 10 percent of the business. The company doesn’t break out U.S. sales, but overall sales in 2003 were $7.88 billion.

“We are not retailers and we don’t want to be,” Barnes said. “Our stores are for brand-building purposes.”

The 20,000-square-foot Las Vegas store, located in the retail and entertainment complex called the Showcase, is segmented into three areas: preparation, competition and recuperation, rather than the traditional division of apparel, footwear and accessories.

“It is set up with an athlete in mind,” Barnes said.

All the walls and furniture are black or white, and in-store messages are displayed via video screens and text tickers. Special background sounds have been developed based on the authentic sounds of sports and sporting events in place of music selections.

Each of the zones has its own look and feel. The preparation area is inspired by a sports training facility with fixtures such as hanging bars that resemble weight lifting bars, while recuperation is designed to be more relaxing and includes off-the-court product. The heart of the store is the competition area, with shoes displayed in starter blocks and other performance items. Prices range from about $10 for accessories, to as much as $130 for sneakers, with an average price of $42, Barnes said.“The store will also carry a selection of limited-edition merchandise and items from Europe that are not sold wholesale in the U.S.,” Barnes said.

The performance center concept was created by the company’s in-house retail design team. While the Las Vegas store is the company’s first U.S. location, Adidas this year opened two similar stores in France and Portugal. Located next to the MGM Grand hotel, the Showcase houses a movie multiplex, game center, cafe and shops, including Sephora and M&M World, a four-level homage to the chocolate candies.

— M.K.

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