As part of its plan to open as many as 1,000 stores in China before 2012, New Balance will unveil its first Experience Store in Beijing on Saturday.
Designed to showcase the brand’s 103-year-old heritage, the 2,000-square-foot store’s first-floor decor features a worn-in leather couch, framed vintage logos, ads and other paraphernalia dating from the early 20th century. A ribbon extending from the main entrance upstairs to the decidedly more modern second-floor highlights the brand’s milestones. Audio, visual and olfactory touches such as the oak scent of a mid-20th century shoe store are used in different areas throughout. The store carries both New Balance footwear and the entire apparel collection.
To mark Saturday’s grand opening, New Balance will host a Sixties-style American carnival with games, prizes and balloons outside the store on Beijing’s Qianmen Avenue. There will also be more athletic-minded activities such as foot width measuring, treadmill challenges, 123 limited edition T-shirt giveaways and displays of classic New Balance footwear.
New Balance’s global chief executive officer Rob DeMartini and another senior executives will be in Asia for the opening. The company employs 4,000 people worldwide and last year generated sales of $1.64 billion. Fit has been a major selling point for the brand since its early days, as has the fact the company still produces some footwear in the U.S. In his backyard in 1906, William Riley observed that a chicken could maintain perfect balance on three claws. That revelation inspired him to apply the balance principle to an arch support system for footwear, which evolved into New Balance. The label now offers six widths and two heights.
As an extension of its Total Fit Campaign, a multimedia effort will underline healthy running tips, foot care concepts and inspirational stories of runners in China. The company plans to select 88 of the most inspiring runners to participate in an international marathon in Hong Kong. The brand also plans to host a 6-kilometer run, which will be open to the public in Nanjing and Hangzhou.