Store Spotlight: Wilson Heritage Store

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10/05/2021
Jacqueline Barba
Associate Editor | profile
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a car parked on a city street

After 108 years in business, Wilson Sporting Goods opened its first brick-and-mortar store in July 2021. Located in the same city (Chicago) that the sporting goods giant was born and is still headquartered, the Wilson Heritage Store is situated in the city’s Gold Coast neighborhood right between a Lululemon athletic apparel store and a Madewell clothing store. The move into a physical space was important, the company said, particularly after the summer launch of its first mass apparel line, Wilson Sportswear, following a century of designing equipment specifically for athletes. Path to Purchase IQ recently visited the location, and here’s what stood out.

a group of people standing in a room

Upon entering, the store seems quaint compared to massive flagship stores from competitor brands such as Under Armour and Nike found on Michigan Avenue, Chicago’s busiest shopping district. However, a minimalistic merchandising strategy gives the Wilson store a spacious feel, and the extensive use of illumination and shelf lighting allows product to pop, giving a modern twist to the iconic brand’s heyday scattered throughout the store.

a display in a room

At checkout, the wall behind the counter features a large, vintage-inspired art piece resembling an enlarged page straight out of a Wilson scrapbook. Various illustrated relics of Wilson’s history appear on this wall, including what looks like a newspaper excerpt covering 1930s tennis professional and Wilson pro Henry Ellsworth Vines Jr., as well as other artwork representing sports coverage over the years — including golf, baseball, boxing and football. The art piece also includes an illuminated “Since 1914” sign in the center, showcased between two shelving units displaying baseball gloves.

a store filled with lots of people in a room

A less-noticeable element used to amplify the shopping experience is a distinct, so-called “leather-inspired Wilson signature scent” diffused in stores, according to the company. Wilson is also piloting sensory marketing company Mood Media’s “Mood Social Mix” offering, which enables shoppers to interact with and influence the store playlist through their mobile devices.

an old photo of a person

On the table in the sitting area, a sign housed in a wooden frame promotes a Wilson giveaway and invites shoppers to enter to win one of six Blade tennis rackets, autographed by a Wilson tennis pro. The promotion, running from Aug. 17-31, tied in to the launch of the Wilson Blade V8 racket. The ad carried a QR code that linked to a promotional entry site within Wilson.com.

graphical user interface, website

Located at the back of the store near the fitting rooms, shoppers have access to a long, high-top table and seating area in front of a large, flatscreen TV (which was tuned in to ESPN at the time of our visit). The screen is positioned between two merchandising shelves stocking mini basketballs and footballs.

The store stocks a curated assortment of sporting goods — including Wilson’s high-performance sports equipment across categories, such as tennis, baseball, football, basketball and golf — and Wilson’s athletic-lifestyle sportswear collection, available for men and women. Shoppers can have rackets and ball gloves customized during regularly scheduled special events held in the store.

a person wearing a costume

With plans to further expand its physical presence in Los Angeles, Beijing and Shanghai later this year, Wilson has already debuted a New York location since the Chicago opening. Located in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, this larger location comprises 7,000 square feet. To hype the launch, Wilson also opened a museum-like, pop-up experience that paid homage to the brand’s long-standing history in tennis, some sports milestones and its ties to the city. The location opened Aug. 19 and operated for six weeks. The first exhibit, “Love All: A Wilson Tennis Experience,” launched leading up to the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament, held in New York, and offered interactive elements, including a “racket maestro” for racket customization and stringing, apparel personalization and a photo-worthy tennis ball room that included an immersive art installation.

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