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Game Changer

Dick’s Sporting Goods knocks it out of the park with House of Sport, a new experiential concept that redefines the notion of service.

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JUST AS AMERICANS, bored and anxious during pandemic lockdown, collectively revisited their love affair with outdoor activities and sports, Dick’s Sporting Goods (Coraopolis, Pa.) introduced its new House of Sport concept, focused on multi-sport experiences, better shopper engagement and elevated customer service.

The first location, a single-level store spanning 100,000 square feet, opened at the Eastview Mall in Victor, N.Y., in April 2021 and was followed by an equally large two-story flagship that opened in Knoxville, Tenn., in late May. Though both locations opened their doors this spring, the original launch date for the Victor store was delayed from the previous fall due to Covid.

An outdoor turf field and in-store health and wellness area support athletes’ fitness goals from start to finish.

An outdoor turf field and in-store health and wellness area support athletes’ fitness goals from start to finish.

“What’s interesting is we actually kicked off this work in 2018, so it has been underway for more than two years,” explains Toni Roeller, SVP, In-Store Environment, Dick’s Sporting Goods. “We started thinking about the fact that there’s no better time to evaluate how your brand shows up than when you already know that your brand is loved and is a big part of the customer’s life.”

Part of that exercise involved unpacking how Dick’s customers shop online, how they consume content and how they engage with brick-and-mortar stores. The opportunity, explains Roeller, lay in the idea of better connecting each of those touchpoints across channels.

With that goal in mind, DSG began six months of deep consumer insights and strategy work with WD Partners (Dublin, Ohio). Designers and strategists looked at what it would take to reimagine the DSG brand for its athletes and elevate the customer experience based on four pillars – experience, service, community and product.

“We took that as our guiding principle and started thinking about what it would mean if we reinvented our brick-and-mortar experience [while] ensuring that we were able to meet the needs of our customers online as well. What would that kind of push and pull between digital and physical really look like?”

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY

Understanding that many customers do their product research online and then visit the store to actually try out the product, the Dick’s team decided to build on that idea and create in-store experiential elements that would not only offer product trials but would also deliver the memorable experiences consumers crave.

First on the list is a regulation-size turf field (17,000 square feet in Victor, 24,000 square feet in Knoxville) that’s surrounded by an Olympic-grade track, which happens to double as an ice skating rink in winter, that’s open to individuals and local teams alike.

“With the exception of rainy days, we’ll be able to use the fields virtually 365 days a year,” says Roeller. “Not only does it give our customers a different way to try out the product, but we’re also hosting myriad events so the community has a whole different place to engage, not only with their passion but with our brand.”

Indoors, a 32-foot rock climbing wall is available to walk-ins or by private appointment to test your strength and balance. For those new to the sport, classes are available as well as the opportunity to take part in a group exercise versus solo climbing. For athletes who prefer the greens, a golf pro shop, putting green and three hitting bays (powered by TrackMan virtual game simulators) help golfers level up their skills or find that perfect driver.

Baseball and softball aficionados will find batting cages with an automatic pitching machine to test out bats or work on their swing. Or they can immerse themselves in the first-ever “House of Cleats” that seasonally rotates product, to the tune of an impressive selection of 380-plus pairs.

A full-service equipment repair department that can be viewed from the sales floor adds a touch of retail theater, offering everything from breaking in baseball gloves, stringing lacrosse sticks and building/repairing bikes to product customization.

Another dedicated space supports the athlete’s health and wellness journey from nutrition to recovery. In addition to offering yoga classes and one-on-one wellness consultations, DSG has partnered with local juice companies to round out the experience.

LESSONS LEARNED

The underlying strategy behind each of these experiences is to determine what elements resonate most with customers, so that they can be incorporated back into its fleet of DSG stores. Though both the Knoxville and Victor locations are the product of new ideas and a paradigm shift in the way Dick’s views its brick-and-mortar experience, they are first and foremost evolving test-and-learn exercises that will help the brand understand what’s truly important to the customer.

“It is so exciting to me to think about developing a space, staffing it with the right people, the right experiences, the right product,” says Roeller. “That to me is the definition of community, when you move someone from transaction to relationship.”

PHOTO GALLERY (9 IMAGES)
Photography: Courtesy of Dick’s Sporting Goods

Jennifer Acevedo is the editor-in-chief and associate publisher of VMSD magazine.

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