As more and more shopping gets done online, some retailers are opening stores that are focused as much on advertising their brand to visitors as they are on selling anything to them.
Baltimore’s Under Armour is leading the charge with something it calls “Brand House.”
The first such store in Baltimore is a veritable showcase for the company’s advertisements, made famous by the “We Must Protect This House” mantra. There have been visits from Cal Ripken and brand promoters including quarterback Cam Newtown and basketballers Raymond Felton, Brandon Jennings, Greivis Vasquez and Kemba Walker.
The storefront hosts local race events, yoga workshops and other promotions. An Under Armour truck drives around town offering giveaways and holding social media contests.
Kensington native Kevin A. Plank, Under Armour founder, chairman and chief executive, is aggressively taking the concept around the country and the globe. On Nov. 7 he will open his second “Brand House,” an 8,000-square-foot store on the second floor in Tysons Corner Center. He plans a third on Broadway in Manhattan next year and is scouting New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago for future locations.
As Plank explained to investors last week, the driving mission in opening more brick and mortar spaces isn’t selling more football cleats or yoga mats but making sure that Under Armour “will be more integrated than ever when it comes to telling our brand stories.”
“We will have our product communications and retail presentation aligned unlike anything we’ve done in the past, aggressively bringing our consumers into retail at key points during the year,” Plank said.
As an example, Plank outlined the lavish experience his company provides visitors to Under Armour’s store in Shanghai, where a video image of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps greets you.
“While most retailers are more like 80 percent product and 20 percent storytelling, we flipped that and are really concentrating on storytelling as a primary focus of the store,” he said. “You enter to a red carpet, through an illuminated hallway and are greeted by a video image of Michael Phelps, who’s your host and guest trainer. He leads you through a series of vignettes that define the will of an athlete, including a training session with NBA star Brandon Jennings, rooftop yoga in Shanghai, and the exhilaration of running out on the pitch before a match at White Hart Lane, the home of Tottenham Hotspur.”
Opening in Tysons fits with Under Armour’s strategy of bringing its retail experience to top locations in influential markets, a.k.a. “high streets and premium malls.” Whether customers buy something at the Under Armour store there or just remember Under Armour when they make their online purchases does not seem to be a big concern.
Under Armour’s stock is trading at a premium, and its most recent earnings beat market estimates, but one of the concerns for the company is the continued dominance of Nike, and Nike is doing its own brick-and-mortar advertisements. The Nike Store in Georgetown, with its giant orange swoosh above the second floor and its shrine to Georgetown University basketball inside, is a good example.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz