Will consumers immerse themselves in Dick’s new experiential concept stores?

Discussion
Photo: Dick’s Sporting Goods
Apr 06, 2021

Dick’s Sporting Goods has announced the grand opening of its House of Sport experiential concept store.

The new store, officially opening on April 9 in Victor, NY, will provide a variety of experiences for various sports both inside and outside the store. The retailer is promising that customers will be delighted by the store’s “elevated customer service” delivered by specially trained associates and “enhanced technology” to make every visit an experience worth repeating.

Shoppers will be able to take part in a variety of experiential activities, including a rock climbing wall, a batting cage, golf hitting bays using virtual simulators, and a health and wellness area focused on helping Dick’s customers with recovery and wellness.

The store’s “House of Cleats” space will feature seasonally rotated products, and there is a service area that handles tasks such as breaking in gloves, putting strings on lacrosse sticks and building and repairing bicycles. The merchandise selection will feature top notch athletic and outdoor apparel and footwear. As its name suggests, House of Sports will carry the top of the line equipment for a variety of sporting and fitness activities as well as team gear.

Will consumers immerse themselves in Dick’s new experiential concept stores?
Photo: Dick’s Sporting Goods

Outside the store, customers will find a  17,000 sq. ft. outdoor turf field and running track.

The retailer has a second House of Sports store in development that is slated to open in Knoxville, TN, later this year.

Dick’s sees an opportunity to drive future sales with more dynamic experiences beyond the House of Sports concept.

The company has already opened two Dick’s Soccer shops this month that incorporate an “elevated cleat shop, licensed jersey cubes and soccer trial cages.” Store associates are trained to help customers find properly fitting cleats and the equipment they need to look and be their best at the sport.

Dick’s announced plans last year to open its Public Lands concept store at some point in 2021. The store will feature strong environmental messaging and carry premium-level outdoor brands sold in the retailer’s flagship locations.

The retailer entered 2021 looking to build on its momentum coming off a record-setting 2020. Dick’s posted a 9.9 percent increase in sales last year over 2019. Earnings were up 66 percent year-over-year.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is Dick’s on the right track with its experiential store concepts? Do you think opening these locations will affect Dick’s full-line locations in any ways?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"It’s hard for me to envision a better example of experiential retailing than what Dick’s is about to offer."
"Sure, experimental stores like this are exciting, and I commend Dick’s management for putting in the effort, but what’s the end game?"
"While this isn’t an original idea, I see it as a brilliant one for Dick’s."

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14 Comments on "Will consumers immerse themselves in Dick’s new experiential concept stores?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Sure, experimental stores like this are exciting, and I commend Dick’s management for putting in the effort, but what’s the end game? While stores like these may be exciting to visit for shoppers, at the end of the day, they also need to be profitable. Having a handful of stores that have these immersive experiences and “elevated customer service” won’t make much impact across Dick’s 800+ store operation. Here’s an idea: offer “elevated customer service” in all Dick’s stores – that will have a material impact on results.

DeAnn Campbell
BrainTrust

I agree with you Mark. Dick’s will see a huge surge of shoppers in these stores right now because everyone is desperate for something new, but in the long run Dick’s might be better served by just upping their customer service game across all stores and improving their check-out experience.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

It sounds like the Macy’s playbook: come up with some great idea, and then announce it will be coming to 9 stores … out of 653.

DeAnn Campbell
BrainTrust

So true, Craig!

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Dick’s is right to experiment with new concepts, especially ones that add value and are more experiential. While the company has done incredibly well over the past few years, there is still an opportunity to deepen spend in certain categories and sporting areas. If you take climbing as an example, this is an area where REI and more specialist retailers excel, but Dick’s falls a little short. More focused stores should help Dick’s test how it can chase this spend.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

It’s hard for me to envision a better example of experiential retailing than what Dick’s is about to offer. My own definition is Explore + Experiment = Experience, and Dick’s is about to offer an abundant menu of precisely that. They are opening stores that will offer a rich learning environment across a wide breadth of activities that will serve the family, not just the individual. Sounds like a pretty good reason to get up off the couch — not just to shop, but then to play.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

Kudos to Dick’s on this strategy. Experiential retail is the hot topic. Sporting goods stores with climbing walls, virtual golf ranges, or pools to try kayaks and canoes tend to be busy places. They reinforce the brand message about outdoor activities and they are able give customers another reason to visit a store to build a relationship with the retailer.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Experiential stores are the flavor of the month and, as a one off or five off, or whatever, it’s fine — if you like stores that are tourist attractions and testing labs, but I think the Achilles’ Heel in experiential marketing is that a “great experience” is defined by the seller rather than the buyer. Is this what Dick’s shoppers really value? Is this the kind of experience that interests Dick’s target customer? Or is this the product of a bunch of Dick’s employees and consultants’ Google searches? If the answer to the question is that this is based on a broad-based, qualitative and quantitative study of actual consumer need, I salute it. If not, I’d be careful how many I opened.The second question is an interesting one. If the brand is about transactions and a few stores are about experience, one or the other is probably a sub-optimal approach. Better to give consumers whatever it is THEY really want.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

“Will consumers immerse themselves in Dick’s new experiential concept stores?” Sure! When it is new and interesting. After that it will become just another store to them. Or, worse, shoppers will come and not buy, just play.

Opening this store in the Rochester, NY area suggests that it is a test rather than a flagship. That is a worthy try. It also suggests if it works, it may be duplicated in all stores. But to me, that is the problem with headline experiential stores. If the retailer can’t duplicate it in all stores, is it worth doing at all?

Meaghan Brophy
BrainTrust

Dick’s experiential store concepts could easily attract tourists, teens, and local families, especially as people will be eager to get out of their houses and shop in-store when we are on the other side of the pandemic.

I hope that Dick’s will be able to learn from these store concepts, and incorporate the more popular and profitable elements into some of their other full-line locations. A few standalone experiential stores feels more like a branding play than a substantial operational change.

Venky Ramesh
BrainTrust

Baby boomers grew up in an industrial era, Gex-Xers in the service era while the current generation of Millennials and Gen-Zs in the experience era. They crave authentic brand experiences and are more touchy and feely when it comes to interacting with brands. They also favor memories and experiences as opposed to owning material goods. Especially as Gen-Zs enter high school and some of the entering young adulthood, it is important that brands like Dick’s speak to them in their language in order to develop a long-lasting relationship with them.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

While, as an outside observer (but not a shareholder) I applaud these efforts — they’re truly “flagships,” unlike most of what is meaninglessly called such. I have to wonder if the economics work: they aren’t cheap — half acre running tracks aren’t, anyway — and can they afford enough of them to reach a critical mass of their customer base? That’s always been the problem with Macy’s, et al: they come up with some great idea, but then it’s rolled out to (only) a handful of stores … out of hundreds.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
While this isn’t an original idea, I see it as a brilliant one for Dick’s. First, let’s think of this as a test. Many here have commented that providing these experiences in limited locations will do little to improve Dick’s overall sales figures. And what about delivering such great “elevated services” at all stores? Both are valid points. However, if Dick’s can learn how to execute on this experiential promise at these handfuls of locations, they can deploy pieces of it in other stores. Not every store needs to be identically experiential. For example, one region may adore the Dick’s Soccer Shops concept because soccer is widely popular there, but other regions may favor baseball shops or lacrosse shops. Dick’s should experiment with all of these and adjust their store formats and footprints accordingly based on location. That’s why I encourage retailers to do what Dick’s is doing and learn from the experience. One size does not fit all, and it doesn’t need to! Plus, I expect that Dick’s will find customers who visit these… Read more »
Rachelle King
BrainTrust

It’s truly impressive to see Dick’s bring this vision to life. They are spot on with delivering elevated experiences for both young and older customers. This is a new era for sporting goods stores and Dick’s is leading the way.

There are too few stores right now to gauge impact on full-line stores but it’s not unlikely that customers will soon come to expect similar experiences at all Dick’s locations. While these full experiential stores may not be right everywhere, it’s probably a good idea to start thinking of how this elevated experience translates to full-line stores.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"It’s hard for me to envision a better example of experiential retailing than what Dick’s is about to offer."
"Sure, experimental stores like this are exciting, and I commend Dick’s management for putting in the effort, but what’s the end game?"
"While this isn’t an original idea, I see it as a brilliant one for Dick’s."

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