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Why HOKA Raced to Midtown for its First Global Flagship

HOKA has opened a new flagship store in the heart of midtown Manhattan to engage its growing community of runners and movers.
Photo credit: HOKA

Initially a cult classic among runners and exercise fiends, HOKA is now undeniably a mainstream phenomenon. In fact, HOKA parent company Deckers revealed in its Q4 and results for fiscal 2024, which ended March 31, 2024, that the brand’s net sales for the quarter increased 34% year over year, while its full fiscal year net sales increased 27.9% over 2023, reaching $1.8 billion.

In Deckers’ financial results, President and CEO Dave Powers reaffirmed that HOKA was one of its “most admired and well-positioned brands in the marketplace,” with a “robust innovation product pipeline designed to win with global consumers.”

A key to acquiring and retaining this global consumer base lies in further investments in physical retail. Although HOKA has a burgeoning wholesale presence in Dick’s Sporting Goods, Nordstrom, REI and other retail partners, the brand’s inaugural flagship store on New York City’s Fifth Avenue is a “key brand milestone,” according to Brooke Lord, Vice President and General Manager of HOKA U.S.

The 9,000-square-foot flagship store, which opened June 7, 2024, “allows us to connect with consumers on a global scale and create an experience that unites people through their shared passion for movement,” Lord said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “By extending our reach within the community, we aim to solidify our position as a leader in the active lifestyle space while strengthening brand awareness and engagement at all levels.”

While HOKA already had a branded storefront in New York City’s Flatiron District prior to the flagship’s opening, having a store in Midtown Manhattan allows HOKA to be embedded into the city’s culture, so it can capture a constant flow of activity and make it “easily accessible by locals and visitors alike,” Lord explained.

A Haven for the Running Community

While many digital-driven brands and DTC darlings tend to gravitate toward the SoHo area for its street cred and artsy vibes, HOKA leaned into Midtown for its proximity to Central Park, which Lord described as “a haven for urban runners and movers of all levels.”

HOKA plans to make the new flagship a haven in its own right by creating a community-driven hub for consumers. The store’s lower level will be a dedicated space for local community events and gatherings, from product demos to meet-ups with brand ambassadors. As in any community-driven store, the goal is to build relationships and foster loyalty. However, it is the depth of programming planned that validates HOKA’s commitment to its core demographic of outdoor enthusiasts — from novices to specialists.

“There will be a range of consumer experiences that create a sense of community, including interactive workshops, exclusive product launches and demos, expert advice from top running coaches, and organized run clubs from local running groups and HOKA brand ambassadors and athletes, such as social media influencer Kate Glavan,” Lord shared. “With these offerings, the flagship store becomes a hub for runners to connect, learn and pursue their passion, no matter where they are in their running journey.”

All community activations and events will be led by HOKA athlete ambassadors and U.S.-based team members, although the brand also plans to integrate other relevant partners in the area to support its community event programming and collaborations.

Photo credit: HOKA

Technology Streamlines the Decision-Making Experience

The flagship features HOKA’s expansive line of products, giving visitors easy access to the brand’s latest footwear, apparel technology and design. Lord characterizes the store as “a home base for HOKA innovation,” but the space also aims to elevate and amplify the brand’s origins and spirit.

HOKA’s internal team worked collaboratively with design agency G4 to develop the store vision, which is tied into the brand’s mountainous roots. “Having originated in the French Alps, our NYC flagship store pays homage to the HOKA genesis,” Lord said. “Specifically, through intentional design elements, this brick-and-mortar space showcases the true heart of the HOKA brand, and our ongoing commitment to inspiring all to fly.” Specifically, the store includes unique design elements and functionalities, such as a rock wall spanning the elevator and mannequins in running positions.

But it is the in-store technology that truly brings HOKA’s product innovation and value proposition to life. The brand partnered with Safesize, a 3D shoe scanning technology provider, to provide foot-scanning services in store. “Research shows most people wear the incorrect size of footwear, and this service will allow customers to find out what size they are and receive personalized product recommendations based on their input,” Lord said.

Additionally, QR codes are featured alongside footwear shelf talkers, allowing consumers to scan to learn more about different footwear models before making a purchase. These technologies, coupled with a treadmill on hand for customers to “test drive” possible purchases, make it easier for customers to navigate HOKA’s assortment and find the best products for their specific needs.

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Blazing a Trail for In-Store Innovation

Beyond the NYC flagship, HOKA has eight U.S. locations and recently opened its first store in Paris. With brick-and-mortar growth top of mind through the remainder of 2024, Lord noted that learnings from the flagship’s opening and operation will be “directly translated” into the brand’s efforts to improve the retail experience as it opens more stores. Community conversations happening within the four walls of the store will be especially important, driving the brand’s retail and product development, she explained.

“We know the importance of a strong community and are committed to maintaining this chain of consumer-led insights as we scale,” Lord said. “At HOKA, it is always important for our team to be mindful of key learnings when we bring a new endeavor to life. As a brand, we look forward to leveraging this new location as a venue for ongoing feedback and community-generated learnings.”

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