The North Face and VP Steve Lesnard Redefine Retail in SoHo

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By now, word has gotten out that The North Face has opened a brand new store in SoHo at an amazing 8,000-square-foot site located at 584 Broadway. This new development is the direct outcome of the company’s recent appointment of Steve Lesnard as its new global vice president of marketing. Lesnard is also the brains behind the brand’s new marketing vision.

The premier outdoor apparel brand has redesigned its newest store to provide visitors with a truly unique, interactive shopping experience that can be likened to visiting an outdoor apparel museum. The store also provides what Lesnard considers the most important concept in marketing and retail, which is enhancing the consumer journey by empowering consumers so that every purchase adds genuine value to their lives and experiences.

Footwear News wrote that the store’s new retail concept provides “experiences that are base camps for exploration, with hopes to form stronger bonds with consumers.” This vision of more personal engagement and service to the consumer, beyond merely the sale of products, is the goal of the new concept, according to Mark Parker, vice president of the direct-to-consumer division. “Our stores will continue to offer a convenient and seamless shopping experience, but it is no longer the sole mission of the store,” Parker explained. “We’re now focused on creating an environment that highlights our heritage and allows consumers to deeply connect with the brand as they prepare for their own exploration, wherever it may be.”

An Outdoor Apparel Museum with Hands-on Guidance

The SoHo store, which opened earlier this month, is specifically designed to engage outdoor enthusiasts by means of interactive retail displays promoting some of the gear that has made the brand internationally famous. Among the products on display are the brand’s popular Base Camp Duffel Bag, which first came out in 1978 and is still a best-seller; the Nuptse Jacket that was first marketed in 1982; the Denali Fleece jacket that premiered in 1988; the iconic Himalayan Suit introduced in 1994; and the Mountain Jacket that made its first appearance in 1995.

Glass cases display top products that have stood the test of time and were used by athletes that the brand has sponsored, such as a duffel bag that mountaineer Conrad Anker used while climbing Mount Everest. The famed athlete has successfully climbed to the summit of the world’s tallest peak on three occasions – once without the use of supplemental oxygen and once as a free climb.

The retail experience is divided into theme-based display areas, featuring such newer lines as the eco-friendly Thermoball outerwear line noted for products that are created from recycled materials and easily foldable so that they can be packed compactly. One area specifically features bags, including a wide assortment of duffel bags, backpacks, and luggage suitable for different terrains, climates, and budgets. There is an impressive area devoted to hiking and trail running, along with a section called Walls Are Meant for Climbing, where the store celebrated Global Climbing Day on August 24 by offering specials on its collection of assorted climbing gear. Another section, known as the Summit Series, highlights the collection of climbing gear designed specifically to endure extreme climates, terrains, and environments around the world.

The outerwear section features an amazing assortment of jackets designed for various climates, strategically displayed around a virtual campfire where customers can chat with store guides to get advice on what kind of gear they should purchase for the specific activities that they have in mind. The brand’s newest collection of breathable, waterproof, packable outerwear, called Futurelight, will be launched on October 1, along with more interactive activities and special offers.

Store guides are one of the key features of the store’s new retail concept, as they provide customers with assistance in not only purchasing the right kind of gear but also discovering new potential destinations, helping customers connect with one another to execute group expeditions, and planning journeys to explore some of the world’s most fascinating outdoor locations.

Empowering Consumers to Enhance the Retail Journey

Lesnard explains that the store guides are essential to enhancing the consumer journey – a concept about which he is extremely passionate. “Consumers are telling us that they’re striving for exploration and want to get outdoors,” he explains. To fulfill this desire, the guides’ function is to assist and empower customers by providing such valuable information as instructions and demonstrations on how to pitch a tent and recommendations for the best gear to use under specific circumstances, as well as key information on destinations, organized expeditions, and the specifics of how to explore the world’s most exotic wild locations.

Lesnard’s years of experience with a large sportswear brand and his extensive success in securing the loyalty of consumers all over the world further cemented his conviction that an intimate knowledge of one’s consumer base is the most essential ingredient to building a successful global marketing campaign that can take a brand to its summit. A brand must provide a satisfying consumer journey that assists, teaches, and empowers each consumer, far beyond just selling a product.

The North Face’s new store is designed to specifically fulfill that mission, providing enhanced retail experiences for its customers by talking and getting to know consumers and connecting them to the opportunities, information, and goods that they require to empower them in the pursuit of their goals. As applies to all interpersonal relationships, Lesnard stresses that by building and maintaining a genuine, personalized connection between the brand and its users, the brand earns each customer’s trust and loyalty. And this, he affirms, is what makes a marketing campaign truly successful.

Lesnard is passionate about his new role at The North Face, specifically citing his lifelong involvement in sports and outdoor activities as a dual citizen of France and the beautiful island of Corsica. “This is a pivotal time in the company’s history,” he explains. “We’ve created a hub for exploration that will showcase our passion for the outdoors and our innovative products.” Additionally, by redesigning its new store – upon which all of the brand’s stores around the world will soon be modeled – The North Face has also created a hub that empowers and unites the community of consumers that benefit from using its products.

Related: Financial Leadership with Michael Nierenberg

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