A blog series on Shopper Marketing.

By Cyndi Pyburn

Recently, I ventured up Yonge Street to visit the new Sport Chek store just north of Eglinton.  I was thinking to myself, why would Sport Chek locate on a streetfront with a smaller format?  This is a clear departure from their typical ‘big box’ and mall locations.  The answer became very apparent upon arrival.  From the moment I entered this new store, I was truly ‘wowed’. In an era of online shopping I do value this, an experiential store such as this new Sport Chek helps to counteract ‘showrooming’ and ultimately online buying.  But how?

First of all I felt like they were speaking to the athlete in me – inspiring me every step of the way.  They did this through an open, easy-to-navigate, modern, upscale environment complete with expert sales advice and unique, high value services.  Let me explain further.

I’ll start with my arrival.  I was enthusiastically greeted in a very authentic way.  I didn’t feel pushed, watched or hovered over.  Passionate staff who know their stuff don’t seem to need to hound me … they intuitively know when I need their assistance.  Secondly, the digital elements throughout the store fostered a stimulating and exciting shopping trip.  These elements contributed positively to the ambiance and energy in the store.  Quite simply, they made me want to buy (whether I needed more running gear or not!).  I was completely intrigued by a few things in the store.  On the first level, there is a focus on fitness:

  • An athletic footwall (which is common in Sport Chek stores), abounded with selection and colour (organized by brand and gender) complete with an Adidas interactive screen that permits you to select a shoe and learn about its performance features among other things.  Very cool.
  • The Under Armour yoga display with a digital screen of women working out hard to achieve their goals – believe me, if you hadn’t worked out in a few days, you were going to be running to the gym after viewing this.  Very inspiring.

The upstairs level was dedicated to skiing and snowboarding, another sport I truly enjoy.  Again the digital signage made navigation easy and inspiring all at the same time.

In fact my trip up the escalator was sheer ‘retailtainment’ as I viewed ‘kick-ass’ skiers doing their mountain best!  Most notably upstairs:

  • A ‘Wintersteiger’ ski tuning machine – evidently there are only a half dozen or so in North America.  How could this really provide a better tune up for my skis?  I decided to try it, returning to the store one evening with skis in tow.  Less than 30 minutes later, my skis (okay, they were a little rusted), looked brand new and I am not exaggerating —   it was a $40 well spent.  Very impressive.

Despite the smaller size, Sport Chek has done a good job of a compelling, tight but comprehensive merchandising mix in a few key categories.  I’m told, skiing/snowboarding will morph into golf in the Spring.  Nice.  The right product selection at the right price is obviously key to any retailer’s success.   However, all of these digital elements do deliver a ‘surprise and delight’ and make the shopping experience move from good to great!  My opinion of Sport Chek has also changed – the brand has been elevated in my view – they are forward thinking and not afraid to take risks.

So you ask – did I buy anything on my initial visit?  Yes, a running top and athletic bra – I was inspired to shed some ‘winter fat’ and hit the streets running!