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Wilson Sporting Goods Turns First Physical Stores into Ultimate Urban Playgrounds

The brand is putting its heritage on full display to connect with shoppers

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FOR MANY BRANDS, brick-and-mortar stores are often the first touchpoints from which all other channels radiate. Not for Wilson. The sporting goods retailer has existed for elite athletes as a wholesale brand for more than 100 years, being the “official ball of everything” from tennis to golf. For aspiring sportspeople, Wilson products existed on a par with everything else in department stores and retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods. But no longer.

📷 NEW YORK

Beginning with a pop-up store and “tennis museum” in New York in 2021, Wilson has now opened its first physical flagship stores as part of an immersive rollout that “connects customers with the brand in a way you just can’t achieve through another channel,” says Eric Kuhn, Associate, Design Practice Leader, Bergmeyer (Boston), who worked intimately on the Wilson projects. “Wilson has an incredible heritage and these stores tell the story. It was a chance to control the brand narrative beyond wholesale and put Wilson products in context.”

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📷 COLUMBUS CIRCLE

The new stores in New York (SoHo and Columbus Circle) and Chicago all marry the brand’s century of history with cutting-edge innovation. In the flagship location on Broadway in SoHo, a feature wall dotted with baseball gloves allows customers to grab product and test it out, while the entirely new lifestyle apparel line showcases the brand’s recent street-meets-sport ethos.

📷 Pop-Up & Museum

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“The design’s fluidity was key to addressing Wilson’s seasonality; there’s constant shifting of specific sports features and associated apparel,” Kuhn says. Under spotlights in a four-story atrium is an interior courtyard or “Urban Playground,” offering a basketball half-court and tennis practice wall for moments of play. Flanked by columns of basketballs, rackets and footballs, alongside a mural designed by a local artist, this truly unique space brings street sports indoors for special events and community hangouts.

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This page: Starting with this pop-up and “tennis museum” in 2021, Wilson has now begun opening permanent physical stores in New York and Chicago.

Hands-on interaction with the brand extends to the hometown store in Chicago. If the NYC flagship is all about innovation, the Chicago location speaks to heritage. “We leaned into a traditional aesthetic for this store,” says Kuhn.

This page: Wilson’s Chicago flagship aims to speak to its heritage and innovation through traditional materials like dark wood flooring paired with archival imagery.

The graphics have a vintage quality, while archival photos and old catalog covers line the walls and dark wood flooring is reminiscent of retro gymnasiums. Alongside a curated collection of signature products, shoppers are able to customize rackets and gloves in-store. “Critical to a definitive Wilson experience is the store’s ability to promote engagement with the products. An invitation to play,” says Kuhn.

It’s this tangible, interactive experience that Wilson has integrated into each of its locations, making the successful step from wholesale to immersive retail. Wilson’s new stores do more to put its long-trusted sporting goods into everyone’s hands.

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PHOTO GALLERY (56 IMAGES)
📷 Wilson New York| Columbus Circle | Pop-Up & Museum

Georgia Mizen is a contributing writer at VMSD magazine. Writing for VMSD since 2017.

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