In a performance wear landscape that is slowly but surely beginning to reach heavy saturation with many indistinguishable newcomers aiming to settle down, York Athletics Mfg. is one of the few brands that speak a more refined language, both in terms of product design as well as in the direct communication with consumers.
Launched earlier this year, York Athletics focuses on intentionally understated, lightweight performance trainers and accessories. Even though some of their products feature additional properties like temperature regulating Dri-Freeze technology, retail prices remain all in all quite affordable. Rooted in boxing training, the brand’s signature training shoe, The Henry, has gained a strong following within the fighting fitness community.
Such a bond didn’t come out of the blue. York Athletics’ latest initiative to wrap the year was a pop-up store in Boston, which remained open during the whole last week of November. There, fitness boxing classes, high intensity training classes, yoga classes and running events took place in collaboration with local running clubs. A great step to create synergies with those organizations and spread the word about the brand among its key target group.
Ahead, co-founder and CEO Mark McGarry explains the outcome of the pop-up store experience and what’s in store for 2017.
You have always been heavily involved in the sneaker and streetwear business. What did you learn from brands such as Puma and Nike for your own brand?
I learned a ton from my time at Nike and Puma. One of the key takeaways for me was that the bigger the brand and business got, the further I got from the customer and reality. When my co-founders and I created York Athletics we were chartering somewhat new territory in performance footwear space as a D2C business model but we knew that having 100% control over all aspects of the brand would be key to our success. We’ve been very disciplined in who we partner with and having a direct line with our customers which is what I credit for our first successful year.
What is the essence for being successful as a brand?
Being true to who you are and always coming back to that. It’s a necessity to adapt and evolve along the way but always coming back to your purpose is what makes the great brands great and keeps them relevant over time. It’s a daily effort to remain on course and not get distracted.
You recently started your first pop-up experiment. Why did you start this project?
This was an opportunity to pilot our flagship store concept for learnings. With a D2C business model, we really look forward to engaging with our customers and appreciating this precious time with our community. It allows us to get direct customer feedback on product and introduce fighting fitness to more people. It was the first time we manifested our brand & vision in a physical environment and it totally blew our expectations. On any given day we had professional boxers, trainers, runners, yogis, artists, designers, chefs all in the space…all walks of life just really appreciating what we stand for. Our #Trainlikeafighter message paired with the understated looks of our signature performance training sneaker, The Henry, has proved to have a broader reach than we could have ever anticipated.
What are the lessons learned from these?
We learned that they’re a ton of work! In order to stand out in retail, to bring people in the door who don’t know you or your brand, you need to create unique experiences that they can’t have anywhere else. So we offered free boxing & fighting fitness classes on a daily basis, and promoted that within the local boxing community. We had a great turn out every night and I think that positive energy and engagement really helped bring in additional word-of-mouth traffic and drive sales, so that proved to be key. We also had our new holiday product available at the shop for early-access which helped create some nice buzz with our existing customers.
Is opening stores a part of the brand’s future strategy?
Yes and the results have reinforced our plans to continue down this path and have our own place where our customers can experience the brand at its best: be personally fitted for footwear, have the opportunity to experience the benefits of the #trainlikeafighter mentality, build community… this is all invaluable to us. We’re already planning our next one in 2017.
What are the next steps for York Athletics?
For 2017, we’re focused on growing our strategic partnerships within the boxing community as well as working on an exciting new footwear development. We’ll be doing our best to stay true and on that course!