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Inside Swiss sports brand On’s debut UK store

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Retail |Interview

Image: On; On London store

Swiss high-performance running brand On opens its largest store to date and its first in the UK today, February 10, on Regent Street in London.

Located at 169 - 173 Regent Street, the three-storey retail space spans 860 square feet and marks the brand’s first UK flagship store, adding to its locations in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Zurich as part of the brand's strategy to expand its direct-to-consumer reach.

On co-founder, David Allemann took FashionUnited around the space, where the science-based and design-centric approach to its trainers and apparel is evident throughout the innovative, high-tech and interactive space. There are revolving “stages” featuring robotics showcasing its trainers, its current apparel collection and a Science Museum interactive display for its sustainability subscription service Cyclon, and no till points in sight.

“We prioritise interaction over transaction in our retail spaces,” explains Allemann. “As most of our transactions happen on our website, and we use our stores as a canvas to speak to our community and have direct interaction with our consumers.”

Allemann added: “We want to make sure that when consumers come into our stores, they have an interaction, as well as a shoppable experience. In this London space, we’ve created stages to offer activations such as a new launch and science-museum-style interactions. We want to encourage and share our product to shoppers in a fun way.”

On opens UK flagship on Regent Street in London

The UK flagship is located on the corner where Regent Street meets New Burlington Street and has wide, grand windows that allow light to flood the spacious and minimally designed space. The first circular chrome “stage” that consumers are greeted with is of a robotic arm showcasing On’s trainer selection underneath the tagline “meet your next running shoe”.

Image: Danielle Wightman-Stone; On London store

The robot runs through each of the styles sharing details about their cushioning, ride, and weight, alongside a QR code to allow consumers to find out more information about each trainer, including the Cloudgo, Cloudflow, and the brand’s maximalist Cloudmonster style with extra cushioning.

Elsewhere on the ground floor, dubbed “explore” by the brand, is a display dedicated to On’s focus on sustainability, with the “shoe you never own,” a 100 percent recyclable, high-performance Cloudneo running shoe created with bio-based resources that is available through subscription only. The initiative called Cyclon costs 25 pounds per month and allows subscribers to return their used pair of trainers to receive a replacement. Those shoes are then shredded into pellets that are used to make new shoe parts.

To demonstrate its circular nature, the stage showcases the castor beans and castor oil, which the striking white Cloudneo is made from, alongside the shredded components underneath ‘Run. Repeat. Recycle.’

Image: Danielle Wightman-Stone; On London store

The final stage, which can be lowered and its walls moved, focuses on its apparel, a growth area for the brand, and one which Allemann states sells 20-25 percent better in-store than on its website as he adds “consumers like to touch”. On also brings its apparel, which ranges from leggings to lightweight jackets, tops, sports bras and parkas to life by dressing mannequins positioned as if they are running.

On highlights its immersive and tech-driven approach to retailing with its largest store to date

Image: Danielle Wightman-Stone; On London store

The first floor is the shoppable aspect of the store, where shoppers are greeted with floor-to-ceiling shelving of clothing, highlighting the brand’s running, trial and ‘move’ activewear, as well as its sports bras. The London store carries On’s full range of womenswear and menswear apparel and shoes, marking the first time its full range has been available in London.

On the other side of the floor is a “magic wall” of trainers, displaying all of its styles in various colourways in a floor-to-ceiling display cabinet with every size inside.

“Downstairs is where shoppers will discover something, up here is more shoppable, and where you can try,” explains Allemann. “But we’ve also tried to innovate the shopping experience by maximising interactions. In a normal sports store, somebody asks you your size, then disappears to the stockroom for 10 minutes, here we can let you try on the style instantly.”

Allemann added: “We want our advisors to maximise their time with our customers, rather than investing their time in the stock room and finding sizes, we want them to be helping you find the right shoe and sharing the features.”

Image: On; On London store

The science storytelling also continues on the first floor, with its award-winning ultra-lightweight signature Zero running jacket on display, showcasing that it comes in at just 61 grams. Shoppers can even see its lightweight qualities by pressing a button and filling the jacket with air, suspending it in mid-air.

Another display demonstrates how the cushioning and shoe soles are tested during On’s product development.

Shoppers can also have their running style analysed by running down a section of the floor fitted with hidden gait-cycle analysis technology. It gives three footwear recommendations based on the customer's style and gait, utilising data built from thousands of typical running profiles.

The final aspect of the store is focused on community, with the basement offering a versatile space for panels, workouts, and events alongside a pop-up bar. The brand will host weekly runs and has an event planned around the London Marathon.

When it comes to why On chose London for its first high street location in Europe, Allemann added: “London has been a focus for us as we see such an intensity of community growth in London. In Q3 we doubled the community in the UK, and our approach to retail locations is that we go where our communities are.”

Image: On; On London store
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