Last month, Dick’s Sporting Goods (DSG) announced plans to launch two new outdoor-centric stores under a new brand name, Public Lands, and placed outdoor industry veteran Todd Spaletto at the helm.
This week, DSG made another big launch announcement: The sporting goods giant will open two new locations this spring, but the stores will look markedly different from the company’s standard outlets. DSG is the latest to engage with a growing trend among retailers: pairing products with experiences.
The experiential retail trend
In 2019, REI opened the doors of its first “experience center” in North Conway, New Hampshire. While the location offered REI’s typical range of products, the retailer put particular emphasis on customer engagement, helping shoppers hire guides, book trips, and plan adventures. Around the same time, The North Face opened a store in Soho, Manhattan, with a similar model—providing customers with products and enabling outdoor experiences.
DSG is the latest retailer to jump on the experiential train.
The new stores—one in Victor, New York, set to open in March, and the other in Knoxville, Tennessee, opening in May—will contain hands-on features like climbing walls, hitting bays, and adjacent turf fields intended to allow customers to experiment with products under DSG’s roof. Toni Roeller, DSG’s senior VP of in-store environment and visual merchandising, credits the main impetus for the experiential model to customer feedback.
“One of the biggest pieces of feedback that we hear is that people want to get into the store, and they want to try products,” Roeller said.
Roeller also distinguished between the two experiential locations and the Public Lands venture. Whereas with Public Lands, DSG hopes to tap into a relatively unfamiliar market, these new stores are aimed at improving the experience for their existing customer base.
Will providing customers with in-store experiences become the norm for DSG and other outdoor retailers? Roeller emphasized the experimental nature of the new locations, noting DSG’s opportunity to test marketing and labor strategies within the stores. Meaghan Reyes, executive director of the Victor store, sees the new model providing a competitive advantage.
“We are a very competitive company,” Reyes said. “We thought to ourselves, ‘What would a store look and feel like that would be nearly impossible for us to compete with?’ Then we just went out and built it.”