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Nike at Boxpark: Retail theatre, technology and a full supporting cast

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Boxpark looms large over the brand new concrete curves of Shoreditch High Street station. The on-trend location is halfway between hip Hoxton and ‘omnicultural’ Brick Lane, and mid-way between London’s West End and The Olympic Park.

Boxpark is like a pop-up mall pieced together by giants using shipping containers as Lego bricks. It’s on land leased from Network Rail and will be gone in five years. As well as a fair sprinkling of independents, two of the larger containers feature Nike, long-time master of mixing technology, sports, social and, of course, retail.

On the upper gallery alongside the coffee shops and Mexican cantinas (or should that be continas?) you’ll find a NIKEiD store like no other, literally. Most Nike stores give you the NIKEiD option of customising your shoes, but this store is exclusively-iD and nothing else. It’s a visual triumph, mixing a mildly disconcerting off-kilter artisanal aesthetic (all the drawers and shelves run at a 45 degree angle up the walls) with an Apple chic including an engaging interactive video screen (the only other one like it is in Oregon). And all the NIKEiD magic comes to life with innumerable samples of shoes, laces, fabrics, tags and designs that customers can employ both on-screen and in their hands to arrive at their own personal creation. It’s like next generation retail… a veritable technological Build-A-Bear for shoes.

Of course retail technology and interaction in stores is worth zip without great people to carry it off. Not only was my assistant knowledgeable and enthusiastic, she also directed me to the ‘Nike Fuel Station’ down on container level zero. A World first for Nike, the Fuel Station store showcases Nike’s latest technological nexus, crossing social media with keeping healthy. A Fuel Points wristband (£149 on sale exclusively at Boxpark until May 1st) is wearable technology that tracks your activity and uploads it to iPhone or Facebook. It’s not for running geeks - Nike is already well-armed with GPS tracker-watches - this one is for people who feel they should be more active and need a little encouragement and focus.

And once again, people and top-notch technological execution deliver retail theatre at the Fuel Station. Drama abounds in the densely-constructed space…

  • Abercrombie-and-Fitch-style darkened alcoves
  • Oversized interactive tablets
  • And best of all: an imposing LED colourwall that responds chromatically to your dance moves leaving you with a psychedelic video memento to share on YouTube.

I was given an induction to Fuel Points by a sales associate who’d probably make a great actor, or was that an actor performing as an associate? One thing’s for sure, with retail technology forming the theatrical back drop to so many current retail ventures, the key success factor remains the actors in your store.

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