And although the earliest NBA fans had to wait until they got to the stadium or a sporting goods store to find the items they were looking for, the modern NBA fans have the entire universe of NBA merchandise literally in the palm of their hands. The Internet has made it possible for a fan to find exactly what he or she is looking for no matter where they are or what time it is.
It has never been a better time to be a fan of the NBA, and the league is giving its fans a shopping experience unlike anything that has come before in the form of its new flagship NBA Store in Manhattan and its connection to NBAStore.com. This past June, the NBA announced a multi-year partnership with retailer Fanatics to operate the new 25,000-square-foot flagship store, which will open on Fifth Avenue in time for the 2015 holiday season.
By selecting Fanatics – which already operates NBAStore.com for the NBA – the league will be creating a retail store unlike anything sports fans have seen before. NBA Senior Vice President of Global Retail Development Chris Brennan says the expanded partnership with Fanatics puts the NBA in a perfect position to provide fans with an omnichannel retail experience and a flawless connection between the flagship store and the league’s e-commerce platform. “I think what we are going to be highlighting is the accessibility and the seamlessness between the online and the store,” Brennan says. “We are seeing that this omnichannel trend is very important, and we are going to capitalize on that trend in the future.”
The Full Experience
The new flagship store will be more than just a retail store for all things NBA – it will be a destination for basketball fans and a virtual shrine to the history of the league as well as its future. Everything from the enlarged glass net sculpture on the building’s exterior to the 40-foot wall of footwear serves to provide fans with the products they are looking for in an environment that celebrates their love of the game. “We’re going to have a lot of very progressive exhibits that will really shout the game of basketball and the history of basketball,” Brennan says, adding that exhibits are being planned for the history of NBA footwear and the history of NBA video games.
As important as history is to the NBA and its fans, the new flagship store also will be as advanced as possible, with full integration of interactive elements to help fans find exactly what they need. Fanatics Vice President of In-Venue Commerce Brendan McQuillan says the company’s experience in the e-commerce realm is second-to-none and will make the flagship NBA store one of the most immersive retail experiences for fans. “Our commitment to the tech side of this business is a perfect marriage for this flagship store experience,” he says.
Fans who shop at the NBA flagship store not only will have access to thousands of items in-store, but also the complete inventory of products available on NBAStore.com. Interactive product displays will give fans access to thousands of items not available in the store, as well as provide them with the ability to design and order customized jerseys. “This technology will allow our fans to come in and be able to scroll down the site on the actual interactive, find their favorite player and even find where they can buy their favorite player’s products in the store,” Brennan says. “Our goal is to have a connection to the products that are available online as well as in the flagship.”
In addition, associates at the store will have tablets that will connect to the e-commerce site and allow customers to find products in-store or order them instantly through the e-commerce platform and have them delivered to their homes. The store also will offer concierge service that will provide customers with personal shoppers and next-day delivery to their homes or hotels.
The integration of Fanatics’ e-commerce expertise and the new NBA flagship store is expected to make a huge impact when the store opens early next year. Brennan says the NBA sees the omnichannel retail model as the basis for all of the league’s merchandising going forward, citing that one-third of all purchases of NBA merchandise were made using handheld devices.
McQuillan says the connection between the flagship store and the NBA’s online presence that Fanatics is creating will ensure that fans have the freshest and most extensive assortment of products to choose from when they enter the store, making it more evident than ever that the best time to be an NBA fan is now. “The store’s going to have a constant evolution of new product,” he says.