After “reinventing” the running shoe a decade ago, On has now unveiled its vision for the future of retail by reimagining how people shop for running shoes. in doing so the Swiss shoe and apparel company has taken a number of bold inititives to move retail merchandising to a higher level.
All of the excitement is centered around its global flagship store, opened in mid-December at 363 Lafayette Street in New York City, offering what the company describes as “a design-centric and technologically driven approach to the in-store consumer experience.” The store is 1630-square feet, with a 735-square-foot downstairs storage basement.
“Reinvention has always been core to On,” On co-founder David Allemann tells Running Insight. “This store concept allows us to give our customers an effortless, explorative new way to shop at a physical location and really get a brand immersion. It builds on our ‘Try On’ philosophy of putting the product experience ahead of the sales transaction.”
Centered around its unique “Magic Wall,” On NYC provides customers an effortless new way to shop for shoes and apparel. Shoppers can either stop in the store or schedule a virtual shopping appointment and receive product within four hours to try on in their homes before purchasing.
Allemann says that even though On developed the design for this store well in advance of the pandemic, the concept is fully equipped for this new retail normal. In fact, the pandemic has not impacted On NYC’s design and layout at all, he says, with each of the tech features allowing customers to move safely and swiftly around the store without requiring proximity to other people, as well as enabling them to access information using their own personal devices.
“Our mission to put the customer first has taken on new meaning this year,” he adds. “We’re excited to offer this sophisticated, yet safe experience to anyone and everyone who has taken solace in physical activity during this difficult moment in time.”
Upon entering On NYC shoppers experience the latest in retail technology. Spanning nearly the store’s length and height, the 62 x 9 x 3-foot Magic Wall is striking in both appearance and technological capabilities. The front side of the Magic Wall allows shoppers to analyze their running styles in seconds right on the store floor. With hidden gait-cycle analysis technology, shoppers need to only run a few strides to get instantly matched with the best shoes for their individual running style. Combined with a custom-built invisible foot scanner with depth cameras that achieve an accuracy of +/- 1.25mm, shoppers receive not only model recommendations, but also their size. On’s team of running expert store “advisors” are available to facilitate and coach along the way.
The back of the Magic Wall enables shoppers to explore and try on the entirety of the On shoe collection Ð it carries every model and size. At checkout, an advisor brings out a fresh pair and facilitates a seamless, contactless purchase.
Behind the Magic Wall, changing rooms are available to test On’s apparel collection.
One of the most unique merchandising features of the store is the bio-based and recyclable 3D-printed boulder in the front window Ñ it is an exact replica of one found in the Engadin Valley, where the idea of On was born. Described as “an expression of technology and nature coming together,” it is a modern-day tribute to the company’s past and heritage weighing in at almost 500 pounds Ñ it took nearly 33 hours to print.
On NYC does retain some “traditional” retail concepts to go along with the futuristic advances. Allemann believes the physical retail store has an important role to play in bringing a brand to life and providing a “home” for fans and the local community.
“Our primary goal in opening On NYC is to provide new and existing members of our community a way to interact with the brand in a fresh, fun and convenient way and to create a safe and welcoming run community in NYC for both locals and those passing through,” he says.
The storefront, with the massive LED screen and the unique, bright 3D printed rock in the window representing the company’s Swiss heritage is doing the bulk of the work in attracting new customers into the store. Unfortunately, the big grand opening party On had initially hoped for had to be postponed to a later, safer date.
Allemann also addresses any concerns run specialty retailers may have in competing with a brand’s own retail efforts.
“On NYC will be a place to raise consumer awareness, not just about our brand but also about our core technologies and how they work to serve consumers,” he says. “The goal isn’t necessarily sales volume, but to educate and provide a fully immersive brand experience. This is a shared mission with our retail partners that will build awareness for the brand.”