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Inside Asics' first Kiwi concept store

Japanese sneaker company Asics has opened one of only nine concept stores worldwide in little old New Zealand.

By Sarah Dunn | September 18, 2017 | Design

Japanese sneaker company Asics has opened one of only nine concept stores worldwide in little old New Zealand.

The Asics concept store at 3 Shortland St in Auckland fits an array of innovation into its two-level, 203-square-metre site. It launched in the first week of July.

Asics is distributed in New Zealand by Brittain Wynyard, which also distributes a range of sports footwear, apparel and accessories. It’s recently refitted the Sylvia Park outlet of Timberland, another of its brands, and opened three new Timberland stores across Auckland and Wellington.

As Asics is a global brand, the design architects behind Auckland’s new Asics store are based in London. The final result was a cross-country collaboration between London’s Brinkworth architects and local architect JCY Architects: JCY visited, measured and surveyed the site, before providing the base plans and sections to Brinkworth, which then completed the store layout and design intent.

JCY Architects was also provided with the global Asics design manual. JCY director Jason Gerrand says the store design focused on maximising the internal volume of the tenancy.

“The interior is highly visible from the store frontage to engage with the surrounding environment,” he says. “The store design development focused on creating a retail interior that offered a variety of spatial zones. The look was to compliment other Asics concept stores across the world.  Many of the store fixtures are sourced globally from one manufacturer, for a holistic roll-out.”

The layout has most of Asics’ retail offering on the ground floor. Its activewear garments are showcased on the sculptural bodies of what Shae Borman, Brittain Wynyard retail manager, believes are some of the best mannequins in New Zealand.

“They are extremely light and have a translucent effect that highlights the apparel. The dynamic poses showcase the versatility of our apparel.”

Lighting was also a consideration, and multiple LED flexi-face lightboxes and display shelves throughout the store add warmth while highlighting key product.

On the mezzanine upstairs is a ‘Foot ID’ space with offices behind. In this space, customers can have their running style recorded on video and assessed by computer to help recommend the most suitable Asics footwear for their needs.

Borman says this running machine and the assessment process is a key part of Asics’ global flagship concept, so it’s located prominently on the mezzanine. Full-height glass means the Foot ID space is easily seen from the ground floor, and from the street outside.

The design team put significant thought into how to command people’s attention from the nearby corner of Queen St. The day-to-day foot traffic could not be ignored, says Borman, so two large video walls communicate Asics’ brand message.  

Once the intent of the Shortland St store’s design was approved, JCY Architects then developed it into design drawings. They incorporated local materials and leveraged their knowledge of the New Zealand retail design market when they created elements like the access stair to the mezzanine, and the fitting rooms.

“The main feature of the store is the mezzanine access staircase,” says Gerrand. “We designed this stair in collaboration with a local engineer and it was designed to complement the brand’s architecture used globally while complying with all New Zealand building code regulations.”

“The major factor for Asics was to create a real showcase for their Foot ID area on the mezzanine level, therefore the stairs needed to be a feature. The use of glass balustrades became the central feature that tied the whole store together.”

Asics’ brand identity is communicated through a timber slat wall, which has the Asics logo worked into the slats. The Foot ID space upstairs is highly-visible, and there’s also a brand history wall to help the customer understand where Asics originated from.

Borman says this was added “at the very last minute”. 

The Shortland St store is part of a global roll-out of new Asics concept stores which began in December last year. The first new-look store opened in Brussells. Since then, new Asics stores have launched in New York, Seoul and Brisbane.

Borman says exposed concrete and a natural, wooden look are key design elements in all the stores.

Brittain Wynyard first looked at the Shortland St site five years ago with another brand in mind, noting its potential. When the company re-signed its distribution agreement with Asics last year, an Asics concept store was part of the package, so it revisited the site. Once the lease was signed, the design process took seven months.

The location just off busy Queen St was part of what made the site special, Borman says. Brittain Wynyard looked at most of Auckland’s shopping precincts, but its distribution relationships with existing retail partners made opening a stand-alone store a sensitive business – it didn’t want to open in an area as a direct competitor.

The team felt a high street environment was better suited to Asics’ brand than a shopping centre, and Brittain Wynyard’s plan to engage the local community through run and fitness clubs meant that being able to set the store’s opening hours independently was important. These considerations narrowed the search down to Auckland’s CBD.

“The location needed to find the balance between a destination store where there was enough space to showcase the Asics range and the right location to capture the foot traffic,” Borman says. “As a leading international footwear brand, it needed to be in the heart of the city and lower Shortland St fitted that brief.”

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 751 August / September 2017

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