LOS ANGELES - Nike launched another of its retail-of-the-future experiments Thursday in West Hollywood, opening a concept store that aims to lure the digital shopper with personal services and experiences. And the products are chosen based on the shopping preferences of local users of a newly enhanced NikePlus app.
To do this, the shoe and apparel maker drilled deep into its huge customer base, looking for a spot in the Los Angeles area where Nike customers were already loyal to the retail shoe giant and most willing to voice their opinions on what they want.
One of those areas was a five ZIP Code region in West Hollywood. That's why the company's Nike Live project is located on Melrose Avenue and dubbed Nike by Melrose.
The store targets the customer "who is very fit and exercises often but who also cares a lot about how they look" when they are exercising, said Cathy Sparks, vice president and general manager of Nike Direct Stores.
"This store is meant to take everything we know about our customers digitally and, with the new Nike app, use that to elevate their shopping experience," Sparks said. "Make it easier. Make it faster. Make it more fun and let it be on their terms."
Nike's latest effort comes at a time when picking a winning lottery number might be easier than predicting retail's foggy future. Online stores are opening brick-and-mortar locations. Storefront retailers are beefing up their online presence. Longtime chains have gone under and shopping malls are struggling to keep tenants and attract customers.
In October, Nordstrom opened an experimental store called Nordstrom Local in West Los Angeles where customers can meet with a personal stylist, have clothing tailored, get a manicure and sip an espresso. But there are no clothing racks to browse.
The idea has been successful enough for Nordstrom to announce that it will open two more in Southern California.
This isn't the first time Nike has opened a concept store.
Nike Soho, for example, opened in New York in late 2016 with a small indoor basketball court, technology enhanced treadmills and special sensors allowing customers to have a sweaty trial run with their purchases.
The new Nike by Melrose effort comes after Nike did a year of research and analysis of customer behavior. The data showed that Angelenos are obsessed with running, style, basketball and sneakers.
The store's product mix will be generated directly by what customers are buying - or not buying - and that will represent something of a challenge to the way Nike stores traditionally operate.
"About 15 percent of our apparel and 25 percent of our footwear is going to change every two weeks," Sparks said. "That's a really big deal because Nike has never turned around products that quickly; usually it's 30 days to 45 days."
To determine what to stock, Sparks said, "we will use member insights ... . If one thing isn't working, it's going to go. If a color like yellow is trending with our customers, then we're going to bring in yellow.
"We intend this to be reactive," Sparks said, "because this is our very first store of this kind and we have a lot to learn."
The store's services include what the company calls "swoosh texting" for "real time customer service." There will be curb service for shoppers in a hurry. Those with more time can book a session with a store expert who can help them choose the right gear.
Customers can also buy through the app and then find their purchase waiting in a small locker for pickup. The store will also have a 30-day "no questions asked" return policy and will even provide a small amount of tailoring services, such as hemming new tights and pants to get the optimal length for the buyer. A sports bra service will also "help you find your perfect fit," according to store literature.
The store layout is also experimental. At the entrance are Nike's latest products, gleaned from what the company thinks could be popular. At the rear are the products that customers in this section of West Hollywood have already named their favorites, such as running pants for women and hoodies for men.
Out front is a mural for the selfie crowd painted by Los Angeles artist Bijou Karman.
Michael Martin, Nike vice president of digital products, was a member of the team at the company's Beaverton, Ore., headquarters that added new features to Nike's existing app that are triggered by the Nike by Melrose location.
"The app gains a suite of features that unlock themselves any time a customers comes within 100 meters of a store," Martin said. "At this point, we are doing that at only three other stores where we have run it as a pilot. That's in Santa Monica, at the Grove in Los Angeles, and a store in Portland."
Martin said one of the more important new features was something called "scan to try on." If, for example, the preferred shoe is not in stock, the customer can buy it online.
"But if we do have it in stock, the customer can just press a button at the bottom of the app window. The phones will ring for every salesperson and whoever is closest will just bring it out to you.
"It gives you that moment of delight," Martin said. "It can be magical when you enter a store and someone is immediately standing next to you, with your shoes in their hands."
Sparks said the next Nike Live neighborhood store will open next year in Tokyo.
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