Foot Locker's Power Store in Washington Heights.

Foot Locker is meeting sneaker heads on their own turf and their own terms.

The retailer on Saturday opened a 9,000-square-foot community-based Power Store at 605 West 181st Street in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. Foot Locker is hoping the store, with its hyper-local focus — including a mural of landmarks above the facade, and neighborhood references incorporated into the decor inside — becomes a hub for sneaker culture, art, music and sports, while building a community of like-minded fans.

“It’s been some time in the making and planning,” said Frank Bracken, vice president and general manager of Foot Locker and Kids Foot Locker U.S. “We’re targeting underserved markets. We think some of these neighborhoods have been overlooked and haven’t had access to the best experiences. We started [the Power Stores] in Detroit and Philadelphia, where we have a lot of consumer interest in sneaker culture and youth culture, but those areas don’t always get the best from our industry.”

The unit offers a range of immersive capabilities, including an activation space on the second floor. There’s also a full women’s shop-in-shop. “The women’s space is unique to the store,” said Bracken. “We want to serve the female consumer bigger and better than we have in the past with multiple collections and stories. Our marketing and activations are tailored to our female consumers. Women have been an underserved and underrepresented part of the sneaker culture.”

Foot Locker’s Home Grown initiative identified three local brands — Perico Limited, Lyfestyle NYC and Triangulo Swag — whose exclusive and limited-release products will be sold at the Power Store. “One of our goals is to connect with local entrepreneurs looking for their big break with a national partner,” Bracken said. “It’s a great way to pay back the community. We sell their products, and their vision and creativity provides inspiration for the next generation of kids. A Home Grown event on Aug. 14 will be an opportunity for brands to come tell kids about their journeys.”

The interior of the Power Store features local references.

The interior of the Power Store features local references. 

The next Power Store will open in Compton in southern Los Angeles, followed by Chicago. “There will also will be other stores in metropolitan L.A.,” Bracken said. “We absolutely see places like the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens as potential locations in the future. It’s about understanding where the consumer is and the opportunities and gaps in our portfolio.”

Bracken sees an opportunity for Power Stores in major markets. “There are 15 to 18 markets we think are critical must-win markets. All of our community Power Stores are off the mall at street locations. We’re not necessarily looking to decrease our exposure to malls, but to serve consumers where they are.”

Foot Locker’s detailed market planning process dissects geographies into smaller digestible marketplaces. “We know what our market share is based on store and digital sales,” Bracken said. “We’re able to map consumers’ shopping behaviors.” The retailer knows where customers are physically shopping and whether they’re staying in their own neighborhoods or traveling from Washington Heights to Manhattan.

Foot Locker’s Evolution of the Swoosh partnership with Nike launched Saturday with exclusive sneakers and apparel for men and kids. With the Power Store, the retailer is deepening its relationship with Nike Inc. “We’re combining the best of Foot Locker with the latest and greatest from Nike,” Bracken said. “Being able to intersect the two, takes the best of the respective brands and allows us to leverage one another.

“We’re enhancing the in-store customer experience by working in tandem with one of our strongest partners, Nike,” Bracken said. “By partnering with Nike, we’re able to offer our customers a seamless and friction-less retail experience, engaging the Washington Heights community beyond traditional brick-and-mortar capabilities. We added the NikePlus membership to take it to another level.”

The Power Store is one of the first locations to offer Nike App at Retail digital technology for NikePlus members. The app’s content and services include Unlock the Box, a personalized vending machine for members to unlock free limited-edition items, and Shoecase, which provides early access to sought-after sneaker releases. Nike Scan lets members search for product information, check inventory and reserve items online for in-store pickup.

Being the first to own a hot shoe means everything to sneaker heads. Nike is providing exclusive products and early launches of styles that will be available to the general public at a later date. The Jordan Brand designed a hoodie with a customized logo for Washington Heights consumers, and Adidas‘ Speedfactory, the German sneaker company’s factory in Atlanta, is creating custom sneakers for the Power Store.

A full roster of events includes Monday’s Air Max art workshop, and a female-led SneakHer panel on Thursday. The activation space will also be used for local barbers to connect with sneaker enthusiasts who need a haircut.

Bracken declined to discuss sales volume, but said “early returns at the Detroit and Philadelphia Power Stores are very positive and exceeded our expectations and plans. That’s not just from a financial perspective, but the way the community has embraced us. We’re really pleased with the performance.”

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