Hoka is tip-toeing closer to opening a permanent store.
The buzzy footwear brand today will open two long-term pop-ups in New York City and Los Angeles. The shops are intended to test the waters of consumer demand for a stand-alone Hoka retail concept, according to Norma Delaney, vice president of global marketing for the brand.
The New York unit is 2,346 square feet and located at 142 Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron District, and the 1,806-square-foot L.A. store is at 8551 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood.
Hoka’s first move into retail was in 2019 when it opened a pop-up in Manhattan during the New York City Marathon. But that five-day retail space was “more of an activation,” Delaney said, designed to heighten the brand’s visibility to the runners at the event.
These stores will both be open for a minimum of six months and will have “a lot more programming and activations.” They will also serve as a showcase for both the full range of the Hoka footwear assortment as well as the newly launched apparel collection. Since its launch last March, Hoka apparel has been available exclusively online, Delaney said. In June, Hoka hired Evie Moe, a veteran of Nike Swim, New Balance and Lucy Activewear, as senior director of apparel, and the company is eager to get in-person reaction to her collection.
The stores will host run events with a charity partner, Back on My Feet, which works with the homeless, as well as yoga classes and other programming. It will feature a 3D foot-scanning device by Volumental that will provide insight into the right styles for a customer’s foot shape, and smart lockers where runners can store their belongings while working out.
“Strategically, these stores are intended to see what Hoka retail can look like,” she said. “We’re going to engage with the consumer, see what they want from Hoka and establish the role of retail for the brand.” She said this is not to take anything away from Hoka’s well-established wholesale strategy and its strong online business, but with shoppers returning to physical retail stores, it behooves brands to “show up where the consumer is. Even before COVID-19, we felt a need for experiential retail to build the brand and scale it globally.”
Delaney said there’s no specific timetable on when a permanent store could open, but this “pilot” will help the brand make that decision.
The stores will be staffed by Hoka brand ambassadors, she said, who can walk customers through the features of the shoes. While Hoka is still primarily a running shoe brand, it has branched out of late to other footwear styles including hiking shoes, sandals and more fashion-forward lifestyle offerings in addition to clothes.
Hoka One One — pronounced O-nay O-nay, a Maori phrase that means “fly over the earth” — was founded in 2009 by Nicolas “Nico” Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard, two French ultra-runners who were unhappy with the options available at that time in the running shoe market and were searching for an alternative that would help them run downhill comfortably after racing up mountains. It was acquired by Deckers Brands in 2013. While still relatively small against competitors like Nike or Adidas, Hoka reported in July that sales increased 95 percent to $213.1 million and Deckers believes it can eventually become a $1 billion brand.