Will Timberland climb to greater heights behind new experiential concept?

Discussion
Photo: Timberland
Aug 15, 2017
Matthew Stern

Popular shoe brand Timberland is taking its standalone brick-and-mortar presence in an experiential direction – and it’s doing so with a store layout and selection that doesn’t stand still.

In early August, Timberland opened a new store concept called Tree Lab in the King of Prussia mall in Pennsylvania. It is described as having a gallery-like setting in which products, pegged to themes change completely every six weeks.

For instance, the first theme named “Streetology” highlights styles and shoe technology created for urban environments. The store will debut and promote various theme-appropriate products during that time. Six weeks later, Timberland will overhaul the entire store pegged around a theme called “SHEvolution” aimed exclusively at women. This will be followed by a holiday-themed overhaul in November.

Much has been made of the importance of experience in bringing shoppers into stores. But there may be a line at which retailers experimenting in this area bite off more than they can chew, deploying huge amounts of resources with limited ROI. In the case of Timberland, creating new themes that offer an interesting take on the brand’s product lines, and implementing them every six weeks, would seem to pose operational challenges in the long run.

Tree Lab is one of a few retail concepts Timberland plans to launch this year, according to the company.

Timberland isn’t the only shoe retailer exploring experiential retail. Last year, Nike opened its Soho flagship store, which features high-tech, immersive sports-related features like an in-store basketball court fitted with sensors that record on-court feedback on product performance and display it on a screen. The flagship has also featured in-store only exclusive designer sneakers, and Nike may be planning to use the location for in-store personalized shoe creation.

It’s not clear, however, if Timberland has the kind of fan base to make Tree Lab – like the Nike store – a destination.

Brands and retailers in disparate areas have launched concepts meant to bring larger-than-life experiences to store visitors — sometimes with surprising offerings. Kohler and PIRCH, for instance, have both opened stores that allow visitors to test out next-gen showers and plumbing fixtures. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Tree Lab be a brand-builder for Timberland and will its model of changing themes every few weeks be sustainable and effective? Is this kind of brick-and-mortar experiential retail a worthwhile investment for brands?

Braintrust
"I hope to see Timberland do an adequate job of advertising their investment in experiential retail with an advertising blitz on social media."
"Will Timberland keep them buying? The experience sounds fun and interesting as long as it is what the customer wants from them."
"Making the store continually change is a great idea. Get shoppers in the store for that experience and to see what’s new."

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11 Comments on "Will Timberland climb to greater heights behind new experiential concept?"

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Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
BrainTrust

The excitement about Timberland’s store and experience design will soon give way to the optimization that will happen from the analytics that result. I hope they suitably resource this.

Charles Dimov
BrainTrust

There aren’t enough experiential retail locations for footwear. Even if Timberland does not have the same following or cachet as Nike, the novelty of Tree Lab should have an impact on shoppers. It means that shoppers will discuss their experience testing different shoes with friends and family. They will share it on social media. This word of mouth marketing should have a very positive impact on Tree Lab.

Making the store continually change is a great idea. Get shoppers in the store for that experience and to see what’s new. Increasing foot traffic can only be good for a retailer — especially for footwear.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Retail exists to answer a shopper’s question, “What’s new?” This has the potential to really give an answer. I’m sure they’ve got a learning curve with operations but I would peg it much higher than the Nike basketball court which seems to be empty most of the times I’ve seen it. Count me a fan.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

At first glance, this is a move that has enough intrigue that it might just keep customers coming back to see what’s up. At second glance, it is not based on what’s new, just what’s up. Consider the Zara concept and other fast retailers. They turn their mix so frequently, it does keep the customer coming back and buying. Will Timberland keep them buying? The experience sounds fun and interesting as long as it is what the customer wants from them. Let’s wait and see. For my 2 cents.

Jasmine Glasheen
Staff

It’s exciting to see more brands taking a creative leap into experiential retail! I love that each six weeks focuses on a different category. I hope to see Timberland do an adequate job of advertising their investment in experiential retail with an advertising blitz on social media.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

As a long time Timberland customer I have always thought of the brand as “experiential” — sort of an L.L. Bean meets Indiana Jones experiential. Perhaps Timberland will use this concept to determine which sorts of experiences resonate with consumers and can fit under the Timberland umbrella. It seems to me that many of these flagship experiential stores are really being used as retail learning labs. That could have a very rewarding ROI indeed for retailers who are able to incorporate and extend the learning to their core positioning.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

Giving people a reason to come to the store — in this case with targeted, curated and fresh assortments centered on a theme — is the key to success for brick-and-mortar. Story has been successfully executing this model for years, and I applaud Timberland’s efforts and anticipate good results.

Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

Experience is becoming so much more important in physical retail. The Nike store takes this to a new level and manages to pull it off. Why go elsewhere for trainers when you can try out a pair on a basketball court at the Nike store? It’s that sense of fun and engagement that makes people want to return.

With the Tree Lab Timberland is taking a different approach, but with the aim of drawing people back by promising them something new every time. Other retailers have had success with this type of model — Story in New York for one, so I’m interested to see how it plays out here. Pro:Direct in London is another store that manages to change its look and feel incredibly quickly, but in a sustainable and cost-effective way by designing this into the space.

I think experiential retail can definitely be worth the investment for retailers, it’s just about getting it right for that brand.

Jerry Gelsomino
BrainTrust

This a great idea, but lots of work. Its value might only for the buzz it causes, so only applicable to larger cities like New York, Chicago or LA.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

No matter what happens with this, at least they’re trying. Between this effort and the innovative endeavors by Yeti, Bonobos, UO Spaces, Muji, etc., I do believe we’re getting closer to the proverbial “store of the future.”

Joanna Rutter
BrainTrust
1 month 3 days ago

Let us never forget online superpower Everlane and their Shoe Park experiments! Shoes can be tricky to buy, when even two shoes of the same size from the same maker can fit differently. A pop-up-esque store is the perfect way to engage diehards and passersby with a no-pressure experience outside of a typical sales-driven try-on.

I echo Lyle on his optimization point — the data Timberland is able to gather in-store will only be as powerful as the team analyzing it and the leaders taking action on that analysis.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I hope to see Timberland do an adequate job of advertising their investment in experiential retail with an advertising blitz on social media."
"Will Timberland keep them buying? The experience sounds fun and interesting as long as it is what the customer wants from them."
"Making the store continually change is a great idea. Get shoppers in the store for that experience and to see what’s new."

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