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NEW YORK — It’s all about the experience at the new Modell’s Sporting Goods flagship, which opened last Wednesday here in Times Square.
The two-level, 20,000-sq.-ft. space was completely transformed for its soft launch. New features include concept stores for brand partners such as Reebok and Nike, a playground-style court and the first same-day discount Yankees ticket booth, modeled after the TKTS theater kiosks.
“We’re taking what we feel is the best execution of a sporting goods store and bringing it to Times Square,” Modell’s president Seth Horowitz said. “Toys R Us has a Ferris wheel, so [we asked], ‘What’s our Ferris wheel?’”
Eight months after beginning what Horowitz termed a “rebirth” of the New York-based, 144-door chain, the flagship is the highest-profile example of Modell’s mission to prove itself as a premium local sporting goods player.
The remodel attempt is part of the chain’s effort to “evolve as quickly as the customers’ needs,” Horowitz said, adding that the chain has revamped 90 percent of its doors. “In our research, what our customer told us was, ‘Give us the most convenient, compelling shopping experience we could have. We shop at Whole Foods, we shop at the Apple store. That’s how we shop, that’s the experience we expect.’”
Horowitz declined to estimate how much the company spent on the remodel, saying only that it was “more than we’ve spent on any single store.” However, he expressed confidence that the changes would increase sales.
“We could expect anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent [increases],” he said. “It’s in line with the traffic that we’ve had, the conversion rate we’ve had and the investment we’re making from a marketing perspective to talk to tourists when they come to New York. And the experience in and of itself will increase units per transaction. We’ve seen that in our rebirth stores.”
Shoes play a key role in the new design, Horowitz said, with a more premium selection of styles from brands including Nike, Jordan, Under Armour, Adidas and Reebok, as well as high-end niche basketball brand Athletic Propulsion Lab, which is stocked exclusively in the location. “Technology is definitely pushing the footwear industry — technology and brand marketing,” Horowitz said. “When the big brands get behind statement product, the customer is listening. The economy is shaky, and if the customer is going to spend $80 to $120 on footwear, they want the latest and greatest, they want it from a brand they trust, they want to be proud of it.”
Also key will be service. Horowitz said the shoe section will be 80 percent full-service, 20 percent self-service (a reverse setup from the typical Modell’s store).
But Times Square was not the only big opening on tap for the retailer. Last Thursday, Modell’s bowed a 5,000-sq.-ft. location at 78th Street and Amsterdam on New York’s Upper West Side, with another space, at 97th Street and Columbus, slated for later in the summer.
CEO Mitchell Modell said to expect more openings to come in the brand’s existing markets, with many opportunities in higher-density areas. “The greatest thing about having 11 states and radiating out from a nucleus is that we can backfill,” he said. “And with the new, smaller format, it gives us a lot of opportunities.”