You have recently reopened your Hamburg branch as a basketball store of the future. How so and what's the heart of the new flagship store?
CG: The heart of the store is obviously the basketball court. The hoop is mounted on the wall and tested to be dunk resistant. Basketball lifestyle is our DNA. And to be the basketball store of the future ultimately means for us to stay true to our roots. For us basketball has always been a true inner-city sport and lifestyle. But it goes beyond that. Brands like Champion, Helly Hansen, Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Ralph Lauren all play in our world. But we are the ones who can circle it all back to the courts. We can make that basketball connection with these brands without twisting or changing ourselves. As I said, it is in our DNA, that's why it's easy for us.
We have always worked with hundreds of professional and amateur teams to stay close to the movement. We have our own excellent tournament in Berlin, the #shutupandplay, where we had players like NBA Star Dennis Schröder participating and winning. But kickz.com also has always been a “distance merchant.” That's the nature of doing business online. But in major cities, in tourist destinations, in areas where basketball has a vibrant scene like Hamburg, we feel it’s extremely important to connect with the ballers face to face. That's what this new store is all about.
What's the difference to other stores?
CG: Our stores are meant to be the extended arm of kickz.com. We want to create new looks–we don’t have to compromise much with our assortment. We are happy to generate high revenues but we focus on being a mirror of our online experience, so more special products and not too much focus on the quick buck. It's more about the experience really.
AK: We want to be known as the No.1 basketball and street fashion specialist on a global perspective. To show and represent who we are and what we can do best, connecting the coolest sport in the world with lifestyle really separates us from the rest. Being able to carry limited and exclusive brands and products and get kids camping outside the store brings us in a different and unique position.
Kickz is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The first store opened in Munich in 1993. How will you celebrate?
CG: We will bring out some very exclusive special products in cooperation with various illustrious brands. Stay connected on Instagram (@kickz93) to not miss out on these limited gems!
How did the basketball lifestyle change in the last 25 years?
CG: Check out the “evolution of a baller t-shirt” from K1X–every couple of years they are adding a look. Ballers in 1993 were inspired greatly by the movie White Men Can’t Jump which came out the year before. But then it all quickly went super baggy, colorful hip-hop. Just think of the And1 mixtape era. Shorts stayed baggy until recently and the tops went into all directions!
AK: Basketball has always been connected to certain (urban) cultures and is known as the coolest sport of the world. It’s really a strong hub with the (only) ability/power to connect lifestyle and sports while taking its culture to the next step. It hasn’t really changed on an authentic perspective though as it has been always rooted/related to “streets” but gets stronger in its awareness and love for the game.
Basketball lifestyle has had a great evolution the past years and also became a stronger stage for all kinds of inspiration: fashion, music, art and sneaker culture. Ballers have been always ahead to be recognize as the cooler athlete and able to set certain trends.
Retail has changed quite a bit as well. What are the biggest challenges in retail right now and how do you meet them?
CG: In the online world it comes down to a technology battle. That's why we put a lot of our investments into people programming cool stuff. As a retailer we have to make sure our retail brand becomes irreplaceable and stays an authority. With strong storytelling you can help brands to launch new silhouettes successfully. The better we are, the better our access to high profile products becomes, the better stories we can create. So don’t ask the brands what they can do for you–ask them what you can do for them. And everybody is happy.
Sneakers are still the focal point at Kickz. How are they displayed in the store?
CG: We arrange by theme. We go from latest on-court function to former function (e.g. retros like Air Jordan XI–then known basketball classics like Jordan I or Air Force 1–and only after that we go to shoes that have a basketball heritage but have completely blended into street couture). Shoes like the Puma Clyde and Adidas Superstar come to mind and of course the Converse Chucks. Of course we also have the runners from modern to retro and skate, sneakerboots and so on. But we don’t arrange them according to brands.
What does the rest of your assortment look like? Which lines do you offer and how do you draw interest?
AK: In general we emphasize a sharper focus of our future assortment. We would like to prioritize both sportswear and heritage brands, which we then channel and promote through our basketball hub in an authentic way. Our range will be more acute to serve the current youth and consumer culture the best way possible as the demand and interest for premium brands continually increases. Lookbooks, digital content and our offline resources will be important components to present collections and products analog to our DNA and future strategy.
How would you describe the new store design?
CG: We tried to build a clean store, but still cozy and friendly. We introduced something called “Rillenputz,” which is actually a very traditional way to make house facades in Munich. It gives a nice contrast and creates great acoustic. The shoes float on small metal pins in front of the wall, which gives a sense of weightlessness. And of course a great lighting system, everything comes down to how the store is lit. The racks and the tables are classic designs with a little remix to blend in. Concrete floor–a lot of white but that’s it really. The product has to excite and the shoe needs to bring the message across on its own.
What significance does digitalization have in your stores, especially in terms of shopping experience?
CG: As a retailer in today's world you have got to keep up and even more so, show your customers something they may have not seen before. That's why in Hamburg we have a computer station so our customers can order in our online shop if they don't find what they want in our store, but the station looks like an old arcade of the ’80s. It's still state-of-the-art technology but it has a very retro kind of feel to it. We feel this fits KICKZ perfectly.
How important is service and the competence of your stuff on the sales floor?
AK: Very important as it’s the first touch point to our company. The approach is to serve our customers the same way as we want be served while shopping. Be helpful, stay friendly and sense the customer’s needs. Appropriate know-how and the right handling on every single level is necessary to gain our consumer’s trust. Being on the current wave of fashion and know its smell and taste of “street- and sportswear” is a plus.
What's the most important ingredient in retail from your point of view?
CG: Stay relevant. In our world we have the advantage that multibrand beats the monobrand guys. With all the relevant brands under one roof we are able to serve a large percentage of our target demographic. That's an advantage. But you have to stay relevant, stay ahead of the curve. We feel like we have done just that with our new Kickz store in Hamburg.
What does your team look like?
CG: At Kickz we all have either a basketball or a sneaker background. Or both. It's important to us that we not just sell items in our portfolio but understand and feel them too. It's not just about the product but the lifestyle too and we can only project that lifestyle in an authentic manner if that is where we come from originally. You can’t fake it, besides kids today smell BS from miles away.
Phone: + 49 (0) 40 300 871 89