April 07, 2021 at 04:00PM

The nation’s largest sporting goods dealer will begin inviting customers to come in and play around at its newest concept store, in a brand-broadening move it said will allow it to “explore the future of retail.”

In announcing the opening of its first-ever “Dick’s House of Sport” location this weekend, Dick’s Sporting Goods said its new play space is geared more toward enabling an experiential athletic experience beyond the traditional commercial experience it offers in its 790 other stores and online.

“We have a long history of moving sports forward,” the company said, “and this next step is our biggest yet.”

The company’s new concept is being test-marketed in the outskirts of Rochester, New York, a city that sits on the shores of Lake Ontario and the Erie Canal and has been reinventing itself alongside once-dominant local companies such as Kodak.

“We are a destination devoted to sport. From baseball to yoga and wrestling to lacrosse, no matter how you stay active, [Dick’s House of Sport] wants to help you reach the top of your game,” the company said.

Interactive Inspiration

The new interactive store concept comes at a time when Dick’s itself is flexing its muscles and growing out its footprint of traditional stores, as well as its off-price Warehouse Sale locations and its newly revamped Golf Galaxy platform.  But in every location, the company’s omnichannel commitment will be present as it adjusts to changing consumer preferences.

“Our tech investments have allowed us to turbo-charge our omnichannel strategy — whether it’s in-store, curbside or online,” a spokesperson for Dick’s told PYMNTS in February. “We see our in-store and our online experience as one — our stores fulfilled 70 percent of our e-commerce orders in the third quarter.”

In its newest step to differentiate itself and drive sales, Dick’s has taken the “showrooming” concept — of using brick-and-mortar locations to allow customers to touch and try on merchandise — to the next level.

“Not only do we have the top gear you need to perform your best, we have created an interactive space where you can find inspiration and practice your skills,” the House of Sport grand opening promo states, noting that it plans to open a second such location in Knoxville, Tenn. later this year.

Specialized Service

Not only will these small House of Sport locations “explore the future of retail through multi-sport experiences inside and outside the store” but they will also be used to develop more community links via “elevated customer service” that will be provided by specially-trained and skilled employees as well as through enhanced technology.

The new store includes a 17,000 square-foot outdoor turf field and track, a rock-climbing wall, a batting cage, simulated golf-hitting bays and a putting green. It will also offer special seasonal equipment activities, health and wellness and service areas for “breaking in gloves, stringing lacrosse sticks and building/repairing bikes,” the company said in its announcement.

The House of Sport concept is also consistent with what Nike is demanding of its dwindling list of “differentiated retailers” that it does wholesale business with — including Dick’s — with Nike CEO John Donahoe telling investors last month about the athletic footwear and apparel giant’s growing direct-to-consumer (D2C) effort.

“We are leaning in with those partners that see the world the same way we do,” Donahoe told analysts in March on the company’s third-quarter earnings call. “We will work with a smaller number of strategic partners that see the same future we do — and that want to, and are willing to, share membership data so we can together deliver a very seamless, very personalized experience for consumers.”

Dick’s Launches First Concept Store With Indoor And Outdoor Multi-Sport Experiences …

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