After 117 years in business, Russell Athletic has become receptive to the possibilities of brick-and-mortar retail.
The first Russell Athletic pop-up opened in SoHo on Thursday to raise the brand profile, expose the range of products in a three-dimensional way, and offer some new services. It also raises the question of whether Russell moves more aggressively into the retail space next year.
“We might be onto something big here,” Ricardo Aranda, general manager of Russell Athletic, told WWD on Thursday. “In the last year alone we have picked up so much consumer interest in the brand that we needed to plant a flag and open the door to a live, full Russell Athletic experience.”
Asked if the pop-up is a prelude to permanent retail, Aranda replied: “We hope that it is. We are learning our way.”
The 2,500-square-foot pop-up, located at 449 Broadway between Howard and Grand Streets, opened Thursday and will operate through Oct. 26.
The pop-up seems an attempt to catch up to competitors already with stores such as Champion, which has a shop nearby at 434 Broadway, among its 27 locations around the country. Adidas, Puma and Nike also have store networks.
Russell’s collection of T-shirts, shorts, hoodies, sweatshirts and footwear is sold online, at mass retailers such as Walmart and Amazon and at college bookstores. The company also supplies apparel to high school, college and professional teams, and sells some higher-priced products at Urban Outfitters, Zumiez and PacSun, among other specialty retailers.
Greg Galbraith, director of marketing, said Russell’s range is fully represented at the pop-up, starting from $10 T-shirts to $150 retro jackets. There’s a rack of vintage products including jerseys and athletic gear 30 to 40 years old. There are also fleece items made in U.S., plus some products from the fall 2019 Heritage and Classic Collections, among other styles. Products can be customized with $5 heat transfers and $10 patches and events with DJs and customization workshops are planned.
Russell, which was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway for $600 million in 2006 and takes credit for originating the sweatshirt, has recently cut more of a fashion edge, having partnered on capsule lines with the Visitor on Earth unisex streetwear label by Tracey Mills and Kith, and participating in The Drop at Barneys event showcasing DJs, artists, exclusives and special services.