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Reebok Pumps Up New Concept

NEW YORK — Reebok has taken more than a page from a fashion magazine for its refurbished Upper West Side store — it’s borrowed the whole concept.<br><br>Located at 170 Columbus Avenue, the 3,000-square-foot space offers...

NEW YORK — Reebok has taken more than a page from a fashion magazine for its refurbished Upper West Side store — it’s borrowed the whole concept.

This story first appeared in the April 1, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Located at 170 Columbus Avenue, the 3,000-square-foot space offers fitness-related information via electronic ticker tapes, photography books by the likes of Herb Ritts and Annie Liebowitz and colorful displays reminiscent of a flashy fashion spread. Fresh flowers in oblong vases rest beside updated soccer looks and other jazzed-up styles designed to free Reebok from the run-of-the-mill sports label stereotype.

“We wanted to acknowledge that a lot of women do their shopping through the print media,” said Jan Sharkansky, vice president and general manager of women’s. “We asked ourselves, ‘How can we communicate with our consumers the way magazines do?’”

To that point, activewear outfits are hung on fake grass mats against an encased magnetized wallboard similar to an In Style layout. Playing cards with colorful scenes from “52 Adventures in New York City” are also interspersed in the display.

Reebok’s version of a sidebar is a hip-high counter that extends along the northern wall and is topped with 60 pairs of athletic footwear to make it easy for shoppers to check out the various styles. Watches, athletic socks and other accessories are mixed in with the footwear in separate compartments and an electronic ticker tape runs along the base of the counter, feeding visitors tidbits, such as: “Walking is one one of the best fat-burning activities.” The information can be changed at any time from the company’s Canton, Mass.-based headquarters.

The new concept will be unveiled today. In the old setup, women’s merchandise was displayed with men’s merchandise in the 5,600-square-foot store. Now, the store is set up with men’s product on one side, women’s goods on the other and a doorway inside the store connecting the two.

In watching shoppers in the old stores, Anderson McNeill, who joined Reebok five weeks ago as vice president of merchandising and concept stores, noticed, “They would hold up items and ask, ‘Is this women’s or men’s?’ There are similar fabrics.”

Prior to joining Reebok, he worked for Britches of Georgetown for 18 years, most recently as senior vice president and general merchandise manager.

For the new women’s shop, the Kramer Design Group, a New York-based agency, used bold, sleek architecture like curvy steel benches for weary shoppers and an illuminated honeycomb plexiglass base with a pickled-wood counter for cashiers. Even the neutral walls have metallic glass and colorful slats.

Sharkansky expects a hooded black top with an insignia of Liverpool’s professional soccer team, a long-sleeve yoga T-shirt and pants with drawstring waistbands to be the bestsellers.

The store will have exclusive previews, a sports concierge and how-to programs. There also are plans to hold autograph signings with authors and other special in-store events. Talks are already under way to stage a fashion show and trunk shows for the Reebok Sports Club.

Reebok executives said the neighborhood, with stores such as Intermix, Banana Republic and Lucky Jeans within a few blocks of the store, and Theory opening a store two blocks north, makes for good traffic tie-ins.

But don’t expect the company to roll out copycat versions of this store. Sharkansky said it has been modeled for Upper West Side shoppers and members of the Reebok Sports Club LA. At this point, the company does not plan to duplicate it in any other cities.