Setting the Pace Since 1908
New York City’s iconic retailer Paragon Sports is a rare breed in the sporting goods retail landscape. Located on 18th Street and Broadway just north of Union Square, Paragon Sports not only carries a full-line of merch across sporting goods categories, the store also manages to curate a brand mix that is unique. Championing and developing emerging brands — helping to separate its offerings from every other retailer’s — is a hallmark of the store’s strategy.
Founded in 1908, Paragon Sports is privately owned and still run by its founding family. The retailer has maintained a single, one-door presence over the years, and manages to reflect a modern vibe even while being a 110-plus year old institution.
Like many of its style-savvy NYC retail neighbors, Paragon is a star when it comes to window displays.
One way it manages to maintain its “Specialty Shop” environment inside a 50,000-sq.-ft. single store is by treating each major category, from running to outdoor to tennis, golf, swim and cycling as its own specialty shop inside the store.
As the Paragon Sports website outlines it, the store’s commitment is to offer “the most innovative and technologically advanced products in the sports and outdoor field… and to provide a unique and fulfilling shopping experience to every customer, every time, by setting the standard in customer service and quality product.”
When Philip Blank launched it as a basic sporting goods store in 1908, Paragon was more of a sports discounter. The store moved into more top-of-the-line offerings in the 1970s and 1980s as the active/outdoor brand and retail landscape took flight. And in the ensuing years, as retail further evolved and top-tier brands have become readily available outside of its doors, the strategy of carrying more curated brands along with the big players has paid off.
And for brands in the industry, having their product on the floor at Paragon is a benchmark goal.
With brand curation in mind, here are our three top takeaways from a recent visit to the store.
1. The Front Window
Like many of its style-savvy NYC retail neighbors, Paragon is a star when it comes to window displays. The retailer doesn’t have just one front window, it often has five or six different window displays, and each reflects the trends that are resonating with the store’s active, hip consumer base.
In early June, here’s what the windows told us: Tennis, cycling, yoga, running and outdoor are hot right now. The brand standouts on display? In outdoor, Cotopaxi, Arc’teryx, GoPro and Vuarnet were among the most prominently visible. In footwear, the front window showcase included Hoka One One, Gola, Vans, Birkenstock and Nike. In the Fitness window, brands such as Everlast, Fitletic, and TriggerPoint got prime positioning.
Brands showcased in the tennis window were New Balance, Nike, Head, Wilson and Penn.
2. Apparel Brands on the Rise
Depending on the season, different categories are moved to different areas of the store. However, activewear and sportswear are always among the most prominent categories a customer comes across upon first entering Paragon’s vast, multi-level space.
Walking through the active apparel section and discovering new, stylish performance brands is a highlight of any trip to Paragon.
Emerging brands getting some love from the store’s activewear display on a recent visit included: Mack Weldon, Jack Jones, MPG, Tasc, Saxx, Alo, Ohmme, Janji, Shape, Kari Traa, Running Bare, On and Thrive Societe.
The retailer’s outdoor section is located on its second floor, and the apparel mix, like its activewear mix, features several under the radar brands to go along with the power players such as The North Face and Patagonia — standouts like Howler, Houdini, Katin, ReDew, Duer Denim, Roark and Topo Designs.
3. Footwear: A Step Apart
While performance sports is what the store is built on, style plays a big part in its apparel mix, and in its footwear offerings the same holds true. In 2017 Paragon did a build out and rebrand of its footwear department and store execs pointed to the strength of the lifestyle athletic footwear category as a key reason for the change. Instead of carrying footwear on a shoe wall with its athletic goods, the store now carries all of its footwear in a shop inside the shop which has its own branding and a separate entrance from the sidewalk.
In a nod to its heritage, Paragon’s footwear shop inside its store is called “Dept. 1908” and it has more than 2,500 curated styles of footwear, with the strongest focus on running and outdoor, along with lifestyle athletic.
For the trendspotters, here are some of the footwear takeaways: Birkenstock product is prominent in the outdoor lifestyle section. Outdoor brands strongly featured include Scarpa, Salomon, Arc’teryx, Vasque, Lowa, Danner, Adidas Terrex, Chaco, Vivobarefoot, Astral, Sperry, Swims, Rockport, Samuel Hubbard, Merrell, Ahnu by Teva, Oboz and Asolo. Nike, New Balance, Hoka One One, Asics, Brooks and On are in the running spotlight and Oofos gets major play in the recovery footwear section.