Interview: How Champion’s Second U.S. Store Taps Its Legacy To Stand Out In A Crowded Athleisure Market

Interview: How Champion’s Second U.S. Store Taps Its Legacy To Stand Out In A Crowded Athleisure Market
Fashion & Apparel

As its Target collection comes to an end, the global brand makes its New York City debut with a store on Broadway featuring a customization center and an onsite heritage vault that beckons shoppers to experience its 'rich history,' executives said

Conner Dial
  • 5 september 2018

If New York’s Soho is any indication of the contemporary state of physical retail, the market is crammed. For Hanes-owned Champion Athleticwear, a crowded retail landscape doesn’t signal a lost cause, but an opportunity to showcase innovation and brand image. Its newest 4,900 square foot storefront off of Broadway and Howard St. in New York City’s iconic Soho shopping district stands apart from the neighboring streetwear and legacy sports brands by highlighting the brand’s cross-sectional influence—nearly 100 years of impacting sports, entertainment and culture at large.

“We felt that New York City would be the perfect location to showcase our heritage and to celebrate our 100 year anniversary in 2019,” Matt Waterman, vice president and general manager of Champion, tells PSFK. “Aside from the great retail location, our team immediately connected with this New York Soho space because of the rich history the building had, just like our brand.”

Founded in 1919, Champion has found success in the physical store model in European and Asian markets, but it’s been slow to develop a direct-to-consumer retail model in the U.S., relying primarily on other retailers (see its exclusive C9 collection at Target, which is being phased out) to sell its products. Early in 2018, Champion chose to compete alongside reigning direct-to-consumer industry giants like Nike and Adidas with its first U.S. flagship store in Los Angeles’ trendy La Brea district.

Waterman says that authenticity is the cornerstone of the Champion brand, and the motivation behind the physical store investment is to encourage consumers to engage more tactically with the brand. “The store concept is really built around three main concepts. Firstly, showcasing our brand heritage. Secondly, telling our story provides a customized experience through on-site decoration and thirdly, bringing the world of Champion directly to our consumer, including collections from Japan and Europe as well as collaboration projects with local artists,” he said. “Our Champion New York City location is ideal, as it allows us to deliver on all three of these concepts.”

The specialized showroom in the back of the store invites visitors to peruse the brand’s earliest innovations with classic pieces from the Champion archives—ranging from a Dream Team jersey to an early-edition sweater. Ned Munroe, chief global designer for Hanes, says that he spent months searching through various Champion warehouses to find classic pieces that would guide visitors through the breadth of Champion’s legacy and history of sportswear innovation. Champion will rotate other archived pieces in and out of the showroom, offering another incentive for frequent visits.

Another highlight of the store is its customization booth, which allows shoppers to add their own Champion-branded embroideries and patches to  garments. This is another trademark that’s not brand new to Soho nor retail—the nearby Nike, Converse and Levi’s stores all offer a similar kind of experiential, DIY assembly. However, Champion sees it as another opportunity to democratize its legacy and invite customers to experience its globally recognized logo and brand in a contemporary and reinvented fashion.

This juxtaposition of new and old is seen in the merchandise as well, where Champion’s durable Reverse Weave fabric is featured alongside exclusive New York-only products and collaborations with menswear designer Todd Snyder.

The brick-and-mortar store also acts as a red carpet for Champion’s re-entrance into footwear, featuring a dedicated wall for its 2018 sneaker collection comprised of suede, leather and other classic, vintage collections.

Basking In Consumers’ Unabated Athleisure Affection

Hanesbrands has seen a period of revenue growth from the Champion label, which is poised to continue as apparel’s athleisure trend doesn’t seem to be stopping, thanks to ongoing influencer spotlights, collaboration-heavy collections and other cultural zeitgeist centerpieces. But like its Los Angeles counterpart, the Soho outpost was designed around and inspired by the neighborhood and the kind of consumer who will enter its doors. Even for a particular corner of the fashion industry, this consumer is anything but niche or one-dimensional.

While it’s unlikely the brand will stray completely from its sports heritage (in the same vein that, in the last few years, Nike has constructed a completely new co-dependence on streetwear fashion), executives said the store offers Hanes the flexibility to discern what kind of store shoppers want and need — is it athletic apparel, athleisure or a combination of products?

The store will host exclusive merchandise collections that speaks to New York City’s diverse audience.

Munroe tells PSFK:

“Having a retail footprint allows our team to curate merchandise relevant to the customer in each market through collaborations, limited-edition pieces and exclusive product availability at each specific store,” he said. “It gives us the flexibility to adapt, learn and better anticipate exactly what our consumers are looking for so we can meet their always-changing needs. We’ve learned these efforts captivate our customers and drive strong sale results.”

Champion Athleticwear

Photos provided by Champion

If New York’s Soho is any indication of the contemporary state of physical retail, the market is crammed. For Hanes-owned Champion Athleticwear, a crowded retail landscape doesn’t signal a lost cause, but an opportunity to showcase innovation and brand image. Its newest 4,900 square foot storefront off of Broadway and Howard St. in New York City’s iconic Soho shopping district stands apart from the neighboring streetwear and legacy sports brands by highlighting the brand’s cross-sectional influence—nearly 100 years of impacting sports, entertainment and culture at large.

+Adidas
+apparel
+athleisure
+athleticwear
+Champion Athleticwear
+customization booth
+direct-to-consumer
+DTC
+Features
+footwear
+Hanes
+Interview
+new york
+nike
+retail
+sportswear
+store
+store experience
+store experience & design

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