New Balance opened their second Experience Store recently in Shanghai (check out my post on the Sole Collector Blog), which follows their Beijing location that opened last summer. I’ve been a fan of their retro running styles for quite some time and just started getting some back into my collection. Even outside the retros, the running line has been a constant in my closet for many years now.
One thing I would love to see is, the the effort that is being put into the China New Balance presence, also put into the market here in the US. As far as retro styled runners, it doesn’t get much better to me than the New Balance 1500. The most recent US release I can recall was the Freedom Trail Pack from Concepts, which was top notch. Most releases are Japan or Europe only which deters US buyers from buying, especially at two and three times MSRP. Without a doubt there are plenty of people here in the States would purchase if they were more easily available especially with the help of some educated sales people. Everyone knows the Made in USA, Made in England, and Made in Japan labels are synonymous with quality, but even the quality on the company’s Made in China lifestyle range can make many other “premium” releases look like blue light specials.
I recently went in to a New Balance store in Roseville, California. It apparently is not company owned, but rather a franchised location. The store is nice, and as far as running knowledge, the guy working seemed knowledgeable. However when I asked about some of the lifestyle silhouettes, trying to find more information on them, such as history and availability, he had no idea. He pulled out a book that his district manager had left at the store, handed to me and proceeded to fumble around looking for some other information for me. Maybe it’s my mentality, but if I do something (especially sell something) I want to know enough about its past, present and future to conquer any doubts that people may have. Needless to say the experience left me wanting more.
Back to the Shanghai Experience Store, I know many people who would love to check out the New Balance Experience Store, but aren’t going to travel outside the US to do so. Yes it’s true, China has more potential customers, but right now is a great time for a US company like New Balance to embrace their roots and make the most of the struggling economy. It’s times like these that can take a company from Good to Great. San Francisco would be a great place to put the company’s first US Experience Store in my opinion. The moderate temperatures and overall lifestyle of The City couldn’t be more fitting for the quality and style of the New Balance Lifestyle line, not to mention that San Francisco is usually in the top ten of every “fittest city” list.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if I ruled the world, or even just New Balance, or even better just the lifestyle side of New Balance here in the US, I’d do things a little differently. Especially now, the possibilities are limitless and there are a number of folks in the sneaker culture that could take the company to a level it has yet to achieve in that genre here in the US. I’d love to see it happen, somebody tell the right person at New Balance now is the time.