The National Basketball Association has tapped Fanatics, the largest e-tailer in the sports arena, to operate its New York City flagship. The 25,000-square-foot store is scheduled to open at 545 Fifth Avenue, at 45th Street, in time for the holiday season.
Fanatics, which sells licensed sports items and memorabilia through its Fanatics, FansEdge and Fanatics Authentic Web sites, has operated the NBA’s e-commerce site for nearly 10 years.
Chris Brennan, senior vice president of global retail development for the NBA, said for four years, Adidas has run its temporary store at 48th Street and Fifth Avenue. “But this is an opportunity to connect with our e-commerce partner in the brick-and-mortar space,” he said, adding that the NBA is the first professional sports league to make this move.
“Partnering with the market leader to operate our flagship provides a unique opportunity to evolve our retail business and offer our fans a more convenient and enjoyable shopping experience,” Brennan added.
The last NBA flagship at 666 Fifth Avenue closed four years ago. Since that time, the league has been searching for the right location for a replacement while it operated the smaller, temporary store. “Our die-hard fans shop there, but it is not as robust as our old store,” Brennan admitted.
By having Fanatics run the new store, the customer experience both online and in-store will be “seamless,” he added. “You can walk into our Fifth Avenue store and if they don’t have what you want, the sales associates have a handheld device that connects with nbastore.com. So we’re going to be connected from an inventory and experiential standpoint.”
In addition to merchandise, the store will also offer a digital ticker to scroll game highlights and social media posts as well as high-definition screens that will show live broadcasts of games and other NBA-related content.
Brennan said the ticker will be visible from the sidewalk and he envisions “people standing outside watching games.”
Brendan McQuillan, vice president of in-venue commerce for Fanatics, said this represents a big step for the company. Although it operates the e-commerce sites of many professional sports leagues including the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, as well as more than 150 college and professional team properties, this is the first time it will be operating a brick-and-mortar store in a street location.
McQuillan said Fanatics has more than 15 in-venue partnerships in colleges and at special events and recently took over the operation of the New Jersey Devils retail stores within the Prudential Center and inked a 10-year deal with Nascar to operate superstores at each of its tracks.
“So we’re comfortable representing brands,” he said.
In addition to the ticker and handheld devices, the NBA store will feature interactive product displays to help customers locate team and player-specific products, an area for games and activities, and 3,000 square feet of event space to accommodate special events.
McQuillan said there will also be a special area devoted to customization. “You can order it and we’ll make it while you wait,” he said. There will also be a concierge service for private tours, personal shopping and an option to have products shipped to a customer’s home or a local hotel. “It’s a cool technological experience that we’re bringing to the store,” he said. “Omnichannel experiences are what fans are asking for now.”