Foot Locker’s Champs Sports Enters Experiential Retail Game in Bid to Compete With Dick’s, Nike

Champs Sports

At a time when many retailers are going small and digital with their physical stores, Foot Locker’s Champs Sports chain is rolling out a “store of the future” concept that via the opening of its largest, most hands-on location yet.

The new 35,000-square-foot “Homefield” outpost in southern Florida that is set to open next weekend will include an indoor multi-sport court, a smoothie bar, flat screen TVs in the store’s aisles and a wellness shopping section that will allow customers to play and shop at the same time, Champs Sports’ SVP and GM Guy Harkless said in an interview with Modern Retail Monday (April 18).

The new format stores will host sporting events and carry more inventory than a typical Champs location to “serve both the performance and lifestyle needs of modern athletes,” the Champs exec said.

Golf, racquet sports and basketball equipment sales were up 25% and 40% in year-over-year sales, according to The NPD Group, but overall sporting equipment sales were slower in 2021 than 2020 and Champs Sports wasn’t exempt from that trend.

“New retail concepts like Homefield are a way for Champs to encourage customers to spend more time — and money — in their stores,” the report says. Champs’ 525 stores “has always had a little bit of a broader product assortment” than other Foot Locker brands with apparel and footwear, CEO and Chairman Richard Johnson said in the company’s recent earnings call with investors and analysts.

The move not only follows the “House of Sport” experiential store format rolled out by segment leader Dick’s Sporting Goods last year, but comes at a time when apparel giant Nike is also making its own push to boosts its own retail presence via D2C sales while also limiting inventory to some retailers including Footlocker,

Homefield will sell women’s, men’s and children’s athletic apparel and footwear; sporting goods equipment; and health and wellness products and will include an indoor basketball and multi-sport court and the Champs Combine virtual reality machine that measures customers’ wing spans, vertical height, leaps and agility with a daily leaderboard.

Related: The Smaller, Smarter ‘Store of the Future’ Trend Is Real

Overall across the retail landscape, brands are moving away from larger footprints in favor of smaller, smarter stores that bring more experiences to their shoppers.

“We’re seeing this amazing experience where new store openings are outpacing store closures (and) we’re seeing new formats that are highly digitized, smaller in footprint,” the National Retail Federation tweeted earlier this month, citing a podcast appearance by Anjee Solanki, the head of U.S. retail at Colliers.

“Retail that sparks the five senses,” Solanki told the NRF, pointing to the creation of memorable moments and connections that she referred to as “the sixth sense of a retail experience.”