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NikeTown sells image with clothes

By Elaine Walker
Business Writer
--Published January 8, 1999, in the Miami Herald

This is more than just a store that sells sneakers, licensed sports apparel and fitness clothes.

When NikeTown opens Jan. 23 at the Shops at Sunset Place, what it really will be selling is the Nike image. The two-story store, only the 12th of its kind in the country, is filled with every Nike product imaginable and much better advertising than almost anything the company could buy.

``It's a three-dimensional ad or a billboard for the brand,'' said Cynthia Cohen, president of Strategic Mindshare, a retail consulting firm with offices in Miami. ``The format focuses on the store experience first and selling the product second.'' niketown-image2.gif (103837 bytes)

A number of the customers who visit the South Miami store probably will leave without buying anything. That's OK because Nike expects their increased knowledge and awareness of the products to lead to future sales.

Both locals and tourists come to NikeTown to experience the attraction that is a cross between a museum and entertainment.

``It's supposed to be fun and a place where you can experience something different each time,'' said Nike spokeswoman Anneli Shearer. ``The store gives us an opportunity to tell the Nike story, the story of our products and our athletes. We love sports, and we want to share what we've created.''

Each of the stores are designed to reflect the local community's sports heritage. In Hawaii, the store emphasizes the triathlon themes of land and water, while the New York store is designed like an old-fashioned school gymnasium.

The design of the Sunset Place store was inspired by a visit Nike designer Cheryl Hunter and her colleagues made to the Orange Bowl for a spirited soccer match between Brazil and Mexico. They were so moved by the enthusiasm of the crowd and the energy of the stadium that Hunter tried to capture that in the store design.

The center of the first floor is the field and ringing the field are advertising boards, which are actually hand-painted pictures depicting the sport, whose products are featured immediately behind them.

Leading to the second floor is a staircase that looks like the stands at an old football stadium. Visitors can sit there and watch films about Nike's products and how they are created.

Outside the store are two brightly colored murals by Miami Artist Xavier Cortada, which highlight two of the sports popular in the area's Latin community, soccer and baseball.

`It's art about the passion of sports,'' Cortada said. ``This represents the power teams, and sports have to coalesce an entire community.''

Inside the store are photos, quotes and videos from a variety of athletes ranging from Mary Joe Fernandez to Tiger Woods and Alonzo Mourning.

It has Dan Marino's ``Mr. Potato Shoe'' and an explanation of how Nike created the special ski-boot-like shoe for the Miami Dolphins quarterback after he tore his Achilles tendon. NikeTown_article.jpg (59161 bytes)

For basketball fans, there is a display of autographed Michael Jordan shoes from each year he has played in the NBA. Spin the basketball dial and listen to highlights of Jordan's play during the season that the shoe represents.

Press a button on the global positioning system, really a large map of the world, and learn about the terrain and climate of a particular area, what type of outdoor activities are enjoyed there and the appropriate Nike products.

Kids can stand in the actual size 12 footprints of Seattle Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez, while a baseball helmet slowly floats down onto their head. Rodriguez then talks about what it feels like to stand at home plate. Girl athletes can do the same thing when they stand in the footprints of Cammi Granato, a member of the U.S. women's national hockey team that won the gold medal.

The idea is that customers don't just walk into this store, make a purchase and leave. Nike managers hope sports fans will be inspired to learn more about their favorite athletes and the company that makes the products.

``It's a place where you can go and find out things that you would never know if you were shopping for our products anywhere else,'' Hunter said.


   All content © 1999 THE MIAMI HERALD and may not be republished without permission.