Update 9/15: Be sure to check out KicksUSA latest opening in Spanish Harlem!
Prior to their reinvention as experience-driven locations, movie theaters closed with alarming frequency. Fox News dubbed 2005 the “death knell for movies,” and by 2011, more than a handful of articles called for something to be done with the thousands upon thousands of vacant theaters looming over strip malls across the country. And while, six or so years later, the theater-going experience has largely rebounded, little progress has been made on re-purposing those that failed to survive.
Well, until now, anyways.
Enter KicksUSA. Last month, the Philadelphia-based retailer partnered with Float Hybrid, an interactive experience agency, to convert an abandoned Brooklyn theater into a shoe store.
“You see a lot of retailers talking about innovating the in-store experience,” says Keith Bendes, vice president of marketing and strategic partnerships at Float Hybrid. “KicksUSA is putting their money where their mouth is, and doing so with a focus on community. They are paving the way for the future of retail and how brands of all shapes and sizes should be treating their physical spaces.”
Essentially, KicksUSA is aiming to become not just a shoe store—but a community center. The company hired a local artist to paint the in-store murals and plans to use the once-abandoned theater space to hold community events, such as rap showcases, raffles, and hosting local celebrities.
According to Fierce Retail:
“Moving forward, the retailer will continue to synchronize the digital and physical store experience in order to ‘stay connected to the brand and the lifestyle story we are telling from their device to their visit to a store,’ Brigitte Cooperman, COO of KicksUSA told FierceRetail. ‘We will continue to innovate with interactive components throughout our space to deepen the connection to the brand to maintain a sense of fun and discovery. It is an ongoing evolution.’”
As to why the company puts so much effort into maintaining a community space? It’s simple: According to a recent study by Path Intelligence and MIT, when the amount of time spent in stores rose 1%, sales rose 1.3%. The company’s project is just the latest foray into what’s been dubbed the “slow shopping movement.”
From Business Today:
“The 'slow shopping movement' is an attempt by retailers to encourage consumers to spend more time browsing their stores as part of a leisurely and enriching experience that’s not overtly focused on buying something. In other words, retailers are looking for new ways to draw shoppers in and invite them to hang out at their stores in the hopes that reducing the pressure to shop by making it more of an interactive experience will actually encourage consumers to shop more… [For example,] Origins’ senior vice president and general manager Stephane de la Faverie attributes the company’s recent growth in in-store sales from 20% to 40% to this new business model.”
The prevailing theory among analysts is that brick-and-mortar retailers will continue to shrink, both in the size of their offerings and in their retail space (see our story on Coach). However, the reclamation of large community centers by retailers could prove decisive in the long-term viability of the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, so long as unique experiences are offered. So far, the numbers are encouraging.