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Adidas, Bluewater

Ever since Nike launched its brand experience store at Oxford Circus in London, sports retailing in the UK has never been the same. Prior to this a sportswear shop was not aspirational but merely a means to an end. Row upon row of racks, shelving and hanging rails crammed full with all manner of sports clothing, equipment and accessories.

Admittedly, there are still a few poor examples of sports retailing on our high streets today. Even some of the bigger names base their instore offer on who can pile it the highest and sell it the cheapest. Thankfully, leading brands such as Reebok, Speedo and the aforementioned Nike are now leading the way with fabulous conceptually driven brand experience stores.

Which brings us to Bluewater in Kent, where Adidas is opening its second HomeCourt store (the first launched in Beijing earlier this year). Inspired by the sights and sounds of the sports stadium, the new store is a truly interactive retail experience that celebrates Adidas’ leadership in sports performance. Right from the moment you walk through the door, or should I say tunnel. The Adidas logo has been fashioned into a stadium tunnel complete with the sounds of cheering crowds, just to get you in the mood.

Once inside, the entire store interior, including the bulk of the shopfittings and display equipment, is decidedly monotone; the flooring is flat grey, the perimeter slatwall – fashioned in narrow strips that mirrors the Adidas logo – is dark grey, the shelving, racking and hanging rails are black and the ceiling - left open to expose pipes and fixings - is also black. The perfect backdrop to promote the Technicolor clothing, visual merchandising and larger-than-life imagery - that gleam like jewels deep within a treasure chest.

The focus is all on the merchandise and your experience within the store. What could have been dull and uninteresting has been transformed into the perfect example of retail theatre with ingenious displays, refined merchandising and dramatic lighting. From front to back the store is well designed and styled, and spacious. Display equipment, whilst predominantly functional in design, has been adapted to enhance this revolutionary interior.

Slatwall lines the perimeter walls on all three sides of the store and becomes the very essence of the brand - customised to convey the Adidas experience. Throughout the shop floor fixtures and fittings, hanging rails, display busts and mannequins, together with mirrors, large graphics and feature displays are grouped together to define each sporting activity. In football, at the front of the store, three mannequins displayed on a grass topped plinth are kitted out in the latest football strip. Each footballer is either mid-run or mid-kick with the ball at his feet (or on his knee!). Behind this display feature, clothes and merchandise are neatly arranged on a variety of fixtures and fittings that allow customers to find their desired item quickly and easily. There is plenty of space to browse. Other sports follow suit and lead you naturally through the store and into the central hub, where the Adidas Shoebase is located.

The pace changes here to highlight this important facility. The flooring switches to a wood parquet effect reminiscent of the school gymnasium complete with circular lines marked out for games. A circular black bench seat for trying on shoes is the focal point with a mannequin in sporting attire on top. The mannequin stands proud beneath the glare of the stadium lights overhead. The bank of display lights follows the curve of the bench and lines below. Shoes are arranged by function, in neat rows on the slatwall to the left side and rear. The kids range is displayed on a series of low wooden benches. The area includes an attractive curved wooden shoe bar that features an interactive table with two big touch screens to help customers find the right product. They can connect directly to the Adidas online shop.

This innovative new store has been designed to bring the spirit of sport to retail, whilst bringing the products to life. Every element of the store gives consumers the experience of feeling like they are in their very own sports arena; from the materials selected to the inspirations of the designs and tools used for storytelling. Shoppers will be immersed in the sports stadium experience from the moment they enter the store to completing their purchase and leaving. This is a truly inspirational store!

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                                     Arvind, Mumbai

                           Debenhams, London
                               Rockar, Bluewater
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