Under Armourwill open its newest Brand House store -- its largest yet -- today in New York's SoHo district in a building once owned by John Jacob Astor.
The Baltimore-based sports apparel maker hopes to attract international tourists and other visitors to the two-level store at 583 Broadway, which is expected to help raise the brand's global profile as well as highlight the fast-growing women's and footwear categories.
"It is an enormous strategic play that we believe complements our overall distribution strategy and ultimately will lift all channels of distribution," including sales online and through specialty sporting goods stores, said Susie McCabe, Under Armour's vice president of global retail.
"We're excited about getting our brand in front of New Yorkers, but also in front of all the international tourists and domestic tourists that come to this city," she said.
The store is similar to the brand's Harbor East store in downtown Baltimore, which opened more than a year ago, but with nearly twice as much space for each category -- including men's, women's and youth apparel and footwear. Footwear alone will make up about 16 percent of the floor space and include separate areas for men's and women's shoes.
"We have the capacity to showcase more products, and the focus on footwear and women's is more dominant," McCabe said.
The Brand House will feature apparel for training, basketball, golf and other sports as well as the women's line of Studio workout clothing. The store employs 100 full- and part-time workers and managers.
The nearly 10,000 square feet of selling space in the Astor Building features a huge digital marquee displaying a 22-minute video of products and athletes, a "living wall" of tropical plants, an athlete wall of fame and mannequins showcasing head-to-toe looks.
The company also plans a new concept within the store: Under Armour's Rowhouse Basement shop, a nod to the company's founding in the basement of the Georgetown home of CEO Kevin Plank's grandmother. Staff will use the basement shop for private consultations with athletes, celebrities and VIP clients, the company said.
McCabe said consumers can expect more Brand House stores but says the company will focus on quality over quantity and has no plans to roll them out by the hundreds.
"This is a business for us, not a marketing activity," she said. "We will open stores that make money and complement our existing points of distribution. In telling our story ourselves, we can help the brand overall."
The company hopes to put the specialty stores in key urban markets where wide assortments of the brand are less readily available than in larger, suburban sporting goods stores, Brad Dickerson, Under Armour's chief financial officer, said Thursday.
"New York is a great example," Dickerson said, and Chicago, where no plans have been finalized, "would be a city we'd be interested in, where our brand is strong but consumers can't get to us or to a broader assortment."
As part of the New York store opening festivities, bicycle messengers will be available to deliver Under Armour purchases to customers throughout Manhattan for free.
After the opening weekend, the bicycle delivery service will continue, for a fee.