NIKETOWN OPENS BY THE BAY

Byline: Teena Hammond, San Francisco / Rosemary Feitelberg, New York

SAN FRANCISCO — Despite an opening day marred by protests and arrests, the newest NikeTown managed to produce brisk business over its first weekend.
Women’s Air Max sneakers at $135, ClimaFIT jacket at $105, basketball tanks retailing from $18 to $40, microfiber jackets at $105 and a Microfiber vest trimmed with reflective tape at $50 were bestsellers for women last weekend at the new store, which opened here Saturday at 278 Post Street.
The five-story NikeTown drew 12,000 visitors over the weekend. It is designed to capitalize on its Union Square address and appeal primarily to area residents and tourists. Two million to three million people are expected to visit the store during its first year, according to a Nike spokesman.
Twelve people were arrested Saturday afternoon for obstructing the sidewalk in front of the store. About 200 demonstrators turned out to protest Nike’s alleged exploitation of workers in Indonesia. Much of Nike’s subcontracting is done in Southeast Asia, a company spokesman said.
One new feature of the 49,840-square-foot store is a prominently placed space Nike calls a “Town Square.” The space includes a staffed counter and banks of video monitors with up-to-date sports data. The Town Square will also provide customers with information about local and national teams and sporting events, said Valerie Munoz, vice president of marketing for retail.
“It wasn’t in a prominent location in the other stores. We’ve found consumers are very interested in it. It increases participation in sports,” Munoz said. “And if more people are involved in sports, then that means more sales for NikeTown.”
At the newest NikeTown, billboard-sized photos of prominent Bay Area athletes such as Tisha Venturini, a member of the Olympic-gold-medal-winning U.S. women’s soccer team, line the walls. Tributes to local athletes dot the store, and the latest scores and information on area teams and sporting events are available.
Floor-to-ceiling windows on one side of the building provide a panoramic view of Union Square. The store has a bright, airy atmosphere enhanced by shiny, exposed metal pipes and beams. The upper floor houses the women’s department and features a lighted, translucent glass bridge stretching across each side for an easy customer flow.
Pictures and displays with women athletes such as Monica Seles, Mary Pierce and Gabrielle Reece are on the fifth floor surrounded by racks of women’s athletic clothing and shoes. Women’s swimwear and boys’ and girls’ shoes and apparel are also on this floor.
The fourth floor houses men’s running, swimming and tennis gear, while the third floor includes men’s training, basketball, soccer and volleyball equipment.
Those are the only three retail floors at the San Francisco NikeTown.
A street-level escalator leads to the third floor, where the shopping area begins.
Charlie Baker, acting vice president of retail, said Nike expects the store to turn a profit in two years, which is standard for NikeTown stores. The company’s top-volume site is currently the 68,000-square-foot Chicago store, which brings in about $25 million a year. However, the 66,520-square-foot NikeTown on 57th Street in New York, which opened late last year, is expected to eventually outpace Chicago, he said.
Nike plans to open five additional NikeTowns by the end of 1998: a 25,000-square-foot Boston site in mid-July, a 42,000-square-foot Las Vegas store in November, a 29,000-square-foot Honolulu store next February and units of 30,000 square feet in Denver and Miami in spring or summer 1998.
Nike is looking for international sites, possibly in London, Asia, Canada and the Pacific Rim, said Baker.
Earlier this week, Nike took some steps to improve its image.
On Monday, it tapped Goodworks International, a group headed by former UN ambassador and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, to review its Code of Conduct, the company’s foreign production standards.
Founded in Atlanta last August, GoodWorks “is dedicated to promoting positive business involvement and investment in developing countries and America’s inner cities,” according to a Nike statement. The agreement with GoodWorks was in place prior to Saturday’s rally, a Nike spokesman said.
In the last year, Nike has come under fire for sweatshop conditions in some of its overseas footwear factories. A Nike spokeswoman denied that Nike hired GoodWorks in response to those charges.
Nike has given GoodWorks “free rein” to evaluate working conditions in its overseas contractors’ production sites, according to Doug Gatlin, senior vice president of GoodWorks. The project is expected to take several months. Gatlin declined to say whether GoodWorks had done similar work for other companies.
Developed in 1992, Nike’s Code of Conduct addresses labor, wages, environmental concerns and health and safety issues, a company spokeswoman said. The standards are routinely “reworked” to assure they are “as high as they can be,” she added. She declined to give specifics.

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