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“Oakley is an industrial design brand, first and foremost. That’s our roots,” said Erik Searles, vice president of retail for Oakley.

This story first appeared in the May 2, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

On that note, Searles commenced a preview of the company’s Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan, which opened Thursday, elevating Oakley’s retail agenda. A branding experience bent on innovation unfolded, as Searles, along with director of retail marketing Matt Moss and Fifth Avenue store manager Lindsay Donahue, highlighted the technical traits and performance characteristics of the eyewear and sportswear, and the store’s unorthodox design and service features.

Most striking was the large digital ceiling composed of nine rows of 10-foot-wide screens, extending 500 feet into the store. With a step back, there’s an anamorphic effect, creating the illusion of seeing one big screen. Videos and animations of mountains, ocean tides, performance products and athletes in action are projected. The rugged appeal is furthered by the tectonic hot-rolled steel plates adorning the interior and exterior walls, though the original brickwork inside is maintained.

With 2,100 square feet for selling, the space has separate areas for the eyewear — custom, performance, prescription and lifestyle — representing the core of the offering. Sunglass prices start at $95 and customized versions start at $130. A level of eyewear customizing is offered at all Oakley stores but the “eyewear bar” at the flagship has touch screens and the fullest assortment of colors and styles for frames, lenses, icons and ear socks. It takes 10 to 30 minutes to customize the glasses, which is done on the premises.

There are also areas for Oakley apparel, watches and accessories. Apparel products are designed with wicking, stretch characteristics and fabrics that help control body temperature. Toward the rear of the store is another new key service feature, the chain’s first optical center. It’s geared to streamline the process for fitting prescription sunglasses and clear lens frames. Opticians use a lightweight motion-capture device that fits on the frames. Customers wear the two together, get photographed, then the measurements are recorded. Once the fitting is complete, orders are transmitted to Oakley’s headquarters in Foothill Ranch, Calif., where the eyewear is engineered and shipped in five to seven days. The concept is being integrated over time to all Oakley stores.

The flagship is also the first Oakley location in the U.S. to sell Oakley Icon men’s wear, which will be distributed to other Oakley stores this year.

On the second floor, there’s a showroom to support wholesaling, though retailing is growing as a percent of the total business and represents about 50 percent. Having a store and a showroom under one roof “enables our East Coast accounts to see what the brand looks like in total,” said Searles.

The Fifth Avenue flagship is the third Oakley store in Manhattan, and 100th in the U.S. There are also 63 Oakley Vaults outlets in the U.S., and a total of 242 stores and outlets in 19 countries. Oakley stepped up its retail program in 2012 with an expansion calling for 15 percent annual growth in the store count. The program also calls for shedding cash wraps in favor of mobile points of sale; movable fixtures to flex the merchandise presentation depending on sales trends; relaunching the Web site this summer; eventually fulfilling orders from the Web through store inventory, and growing business with professional baseball by opening stores and shops-in-shop at stadiums. Angels Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., has a store, and there are shops-in-shop at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Tex., where the Texas Rangers play, and in Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Oakley also has a partnership with the New York Road Runners as the presenting sponsor of the Oakley New York Mini 10K.


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