The Rise of Experiential Retail in Athleisure

With a forecasted growth of 30% by 2020, athleisure is considered the fastest growing retail sector. Amidst this growth, too comes the myriad of players entering the arena. So, what tactics are activewear retailers adopting to make their brands stand out and drive customer sales?

The increased emphasis on an active lifestyle, wellness and mental health has contributed greatly to the word-wide adoption of athleisure. A term defined as ‘comfortable clothing designed for both exercise and everyday wear’.

From a morning walk, coffee with friends to daily errands, athleisure drives a significant portion of the apparel market today. A credit to its multi-purpose use

Entering the Chinese market

Entering the Chinese market though has never been more perilous, with even the biggest mega-brands making significant cultural and logistical faux pas. Both Burberry and Dolce and Gabbana have fallen victim to tone deaf marketing within the region whilst others struggle to resonate with an increasingly nationalistic Chinese consumer.

Making its market debut over two decades ago, today, athleisure has boomed in a much wider industry than athletics, leading many retailers both inside and outside of the traditional sports sphere to launch their own collections.

Wearing functional, high-tech activewear is becoming so desirable that many may argue it’s slowly replacing casual. What is for certain, athleisure is not only the current fashion choice, it’s a global phenomenon reflecting today’s consumers wants and needs.

Adidas Flagship Store, NYC

In-store experiences that drive customer loyalty

The next generation of consumer expect brands to have a more profound reason for existing other than sales. They demand quality, transparency, convenience, brand values that reflect their own and community experiences.

Brands communicating a more meaningful message through their interior brand identity are considered genuine, transparent and authentic. So, as more competitors enter the athleisure market, providing unique experiences and expressing the brands values is key to attract and deepen the relationship with their audience.


Over 50% of consumers say that the overall enjoyment of their experience is important in their decision to buy a product or service, and among the reasons people are loyal to a brand, 27% claim it’s about the quality of the shopping experience.

The Deloitte Consumer Review

In-store experiences such as ‘test and play’ areas, yoga classes and educational activities, brands can forge a new sense of trust and community.

Designing experiential stores not only attracts curious customers through the door but also promotes a greater sense of community, a place where likeminded people can come together and experience the brand universe. Above all, considered customer experiences and brand touch-points add emotion to a brand, driving customer loyalty and repeat purchases. This helps drive brand visibility online all the while building a community of devoted fans.

Adding immersive activities in-store reinforces the brands visibility online, keeping the community busy with likes, comments and shares around their identity, while also attracting new audiences.

NikeTown experiential Tech Pack space, London

A product can no longer be only and purely craftsmanship plus creativity and heritage: we need to add values and emotion to it. Products need to be meaningful.

Cédric Charbit Chief Executive of Balenciaga


Communicating brand values through interior design

British luxury streetwear A COLD WALL* takes its inspiration and concept from The Brutalist Movement and represents the melting pot of clashing cultures in the city between architecture, class and the environment. It stands out as a minimalistic and futuristic brand, which narrates the story of street culture through its experimental designs, crafted with high-quality materials and peculiar manufacture.

FormRoom extended the brand’s core identity into a artistic pop-up concession at Selfridges. The space aligns with the brand’s ideals for purposefully modernist designs and quality materials.

A-COLD-WALL* Pop-up Concession, Selfridges, London

Community-gathering Stores

Nike’s flagship store in New York has taken experiential retail store design to another level. With five brand experiences in a 55,000-square-foot store, the space comprises a basketball half-court with digital screens, a football trial zone, and a treadmill in front of screens to replicate a run outdoor, a shoe customisation area and touch screens mounted on the walls.

To further enhance the experience, Nike offers dedicated coaches in all zones and registers user activity to be shared on social media. As well as record data to offer personalised customer service to returning customers.

Nike SoHo Flagship Store, Nike+ Trial Zones, NYC

Lululemon has recently opened a 20,000-square-foot experiential concept store with 45 ambassadors to promote their products while offering the athleisure community a space to come together.

The facilities include studio classes, a healthy-menu restaurant with nutrition classes, a shower room, workstations and relaxing lounge. What’s a better way to communicate the brand’s core identity, values and purpose?

Lululemon Flaghsip store, fitness and meditation studios, Chicago

Experiential retail agency

Retailers are tapping into a world of unique and innovative brand experiences to satisfy the needs of today’s experience-driven consumers.

In a world where reviews, social media, customer experience and brand values all contribute to a person’s brand of choice, brands need to combine the strengths of physical stores and online because that’s how their customer operates.