Wilson Serves Up an Ace in Chicago’s Gold Coast
Earlier this summer, Wilson Sporting Goods opened their first permanent retail location at 932 N Rush St. in Chicago, where the company has been headquartered since 1914. The 2,250 sq. ft. space is a purposeful and well executed concept that emphasizes Wilson’s heritage as a premiere sporting equipment manufacturer and celebrates the launch of Wilson’s first fashion-forward and athleisure-inspired lines of apparel. While Wilson had previously sold directly to consumers through their E-commerce site and pop-ups at major college and professional sporting events, the company now follows the footsteps of industry competitors, most notably Nike, in opening brick-and-mortar DTC locations. Can Wilson emulate Nike in enhancing their brand equity through highly experiential and fashion-forward shopping environments? Read on for a photo tour of Wilson’s first-of-its kind retail concept, including displays of its exclusive, innovative, and unique products.
The Wilson store’s location in Chicago’s prestigious Gold Coast neighborhood sets it apart from many counterpart flagship stores in the retail and tourist-dense Magnificent Mile a few blocks away.
The store will feature a rotating collection of limited-edition products, many of which will pay homage to their Chicago heritage like this A2000 baseball glove colorway showcasing Chicago’s distinct city flag. Exclusive product drops are a time-tested way to generate buzz and visits with today’s trend-focused and digitally savvy consumers.
The Wilson store is in part an ode to the company’s heritage as a premiere sporting equipment manufacturer. The interior design, with its hardwood floors, adhesive lines on the ground, and bright track lighting evoke lifelong memories of sporting events.
Displays of vintage sporting equipment, posters, and tickets reinforce Wilson’s authority that has always been tied to sports at the highest level.
The collections of performance sporting equipment lining the walls, as well as a large screen display showing sporting events with Wilson athletes, close the loop showing that Wilson is still a leader and innovator in sports performance. The store opened just as the Summer Olympics were beginning; the displays of red, white, and blue apparel and décor and the Olympic broadcasts on their digital display served to further tie Wilson to the highest levels of athletic competition.
Completing the highly sensory experience is the thoughtful use of scent, with Wilson subtly adding what they call their Tennis Ball scent, inspired by the distinct aroma of a freshly opened can of tennis balls.
And perhaps the most famous Wilson product of all also makes an appearance, beloved “Wilson” from Tom Hanks’ Castaway.
In addition to top-tier sporting equipment, the Wilson store displays their new Wilson Sportswear line, which is a more casual and fashionable contrast to their traditional performance apparel, and is only available on its E-commerce site and at the flagship store. In accordance with today’s athleisure trends, this line focuses more on comfort and style than performance and is versatile enough to wear at a Pilates class or a casual brunch. The line offers pieces reminiscent of streetwear styles from the likes of Champion, Carhartt, and Reebok that have likewise put forward efforts to get into the athleisure game.
While many other retailers and brands have tried to break into the large and growing athleisure space, Wilson may have a leg up. With its flagship store’s thoughtful execution and well-curated assortment, Wilson seems to pose the following challenge to consumers: “You and your favorite athletes have always trusted Wilson to make the highest quality performance equipment and apparel – so why not trust us with apparel for your daily life as well?”
Wilson plans to quickly follow up this first step into brick-and-mortar retail, with expansion plans in New York, Los Angeles, Beijing and Shanghai in the coming months (per RIS News). As they expand their store network, we will have to wait and see how much standardization versus local influence they will maintain, and how successful Wilson can be at expanding from sports performance to everyday occasions and from brand to retailer.
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