Retail can learn a lot from sports. By offering a sense of camaraderie, topped off with a healthy dose of fun, retailers can draw customers to their stores, and get them to return time and again.
“People say retail is dead,” said Susie McCabe, senior vice president of global retail for Under Armour. “But retail is definitely alive and you can bring a store to life the same way a game can bring sports to life.”
For Under Armour, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, this translates into providing exciting experiences within its stores, whether that’s a golf simulator or an Optojump machine that measures how high a person can leap.
Under Armour, whose humble beginnings can be traced to its founder’s quest for an alternative to a cotton T-shirt, is closing in on $5 billion in sales and just posted its 24th consecutive quarter of double-digit growth.
“But in retail, we’re just getting started,” McCabe said, noting that the company has only been in the retail end of the business for 10 years. Even so, “we’re on track to have 600 stores around the globe by the end of the year. Retail will play a huge focus in our future growth.”
And with each store, the brand seeks to connect with the customers through the use of a high-energy design, motivational videos, eye-catching graphics and star-studded events.
For example, when Under Armour opened a store in Shanghai, she said, it brought NBA star Stephen Curry to the location and fans lined up for the opportunity to meet him.
Closer to home, the company’s 30,000 square foot Chicago flagship — “the jewel in our fleet,” according to McCabe — installed a living wall of ivy to replicate the one at Wrigley Field, a “fully immersive golf experience” and a giant bust in the center of the store of a buff torso wearing the brand’s signature compression shirt.
Experiences such as these are drawing 1,200 new customers a month to the store, she revealed, and they’re spending 20 percent more.
Under Armour is also connecting with customers digitally. Over the past couple of years, the brand has purchased a number of connected fitness companies — Map My Fitness and My Fitness Pal among them — so it now has the ability to “tap into 160 million athletes” that use these apps, she said.
“We are focused on making connections,” McCabe said, noting that eventually the company will push notifications to those using its connected fitness apps to suggest it’s time to buy new shoes or replace those ratty running shorts for example.
“Retailers need to reinvent themselves to meet the evolving expectations of customers,” she said, adding that success in the future will revolve around “moving beyond transactions and creating relationships.”