NEW YORK — It’s a heck of a time to have your retail stores shuttered. But that’s just what happened to Asics, whose ongoing dispute with Windsor Financial Group LLC, led to the closure of its Times Square flagship in the run-up to the New York City Marathon.
Asics America Corp. is the official footwear and apparel partner of the race, which will start on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island, N.Y., on Sunday morning. Its 13 full-price U.S. stores had been operated under license by Windsor Financial Group. This summer, Asics terminated its agreement with Windsor, citing “material breaches” of the deal. Windsor, in turn, closed the stores after admitting it was “shocked” and “perplexed” by Asics’ decision. Last week, one of Windsor’s largest investors filed a lawsuit against Asics citing fraud and breach of contract.
The 54 Asics outlet stores in the States are not affected by the dispute and remain in operation.
Windsor said the Times Square store, which opened just before last year’s New York City Marathon, exceeded $1 million in sales 30 days after opening. It was closed last week with all of the merchandise still in the windows, leaving Asics scurrying to find an alternative for all the runners in town for the race looking to buy the “official” footwear and apparel.
At a pre-marathon kickoff event in the Meatpacking District Thursday morning, Gene McCarthy, Asics America’s newly named chief executive officer, bristled when asked about the store closures.
“The lawsuit is with an investor, not a former partner,” McCarthy said. “I joined the brand for a lot of reasons, including its business integrity, and I can tell you this lawsuit is baseless, frivolous and we will vigorously contest it in court but refuse to debate it in the court of public opinion.”
McCarthy said Asics managed to reopen its store in the Meatpacking District on Wednesday, just steps away from its activation of the world’s biggest selfie stick at Gansevoort Plaza.
“There’s no impediment to business because of this suit and this is a signal to New York that we’re open for business during marathon week,” he said.
In addition to the Meatpacking store, Asics has a 30,00-square-foot shop at the TCS New York City Marathon Health & Wellness Expo, where it showcases its special New York City Marathon-specific merchandise and other products.
Shannon Scott, senior director of marketing at Asics America, said the 90-foot-high selfie stick builds on the company’s advertising message: “It’s a Big Race. Go Run It.”
Fans turn their phones onto video mode, affix it to a custom orb, push a launch button and the phone is sent skyward while recording the owner, who is left below.
In addition, the company has created three special shoes for the race, all with “fun, loud” and colorful graffiti prints, a pattern also used on both performance and casual apparel, Scott said.
Other marketing initiatives around the race include a charitable tie-in with Girls on the Run, a national grassroots organization that promotes life skills for girls, as well as a contest, Train Run Selfie, where users can submit photos of themselves running for a chance to win $179 in Asics product.
The TCS New York City Marathon and its organizer, the New York Road Runners Club, generated an estimated $415 million in economic impact in 2014.
“The TCS New York City Marathon is more than just a race,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It’s a longstanding New York tradition, a jubilant occasion for families, friends and visitors to congregate in celebration and support — and it’s a huge economic driver for our local businesses, hotels and restaurants. As the marathon approaches and we look forward to cheering on thousands of determined runners, we can also look forward to the hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact generated by this exciting event.”
Last year’s race drew more than 50,000 finishers from 130 countries. A similar number is expected to participate this year.