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The rebirth of immersive experiences | USA: Dicks House of Sports

Throughout most of the 20th century, retail transactions primarily took place in physical stores where goods were displayed, sold, and stored. However, the rise of ecommerce has challenged this traditional definition of retailing and put pressure on the historically resistant retail industry.

Retailers who were already struggling to adapt to changes before the pandemic were pushed to their limits and beyond by the rapid acceleration of ecommerce growth brought on by the pandemic. This sudden shift compressed years of ecommerce development into a matter of months, creating a challenge for the industry unlike any it had seen before. The traditional concept of a "store" is now being reconsidered, and we are seeing the rebirth of immersive retail experiences. The traditional store operations focus on inventory, transactions, fulfilment, product turns, and sales-per-square-foot.

In immersive retail environments, retailers create experiences that not only consider the traditional levers but also design and space utilisation to engage the customer and amplify the brands. In addition the environment needs to enhance the overall brand experience from the retailers other brand touchpoints (for example digital, ecommerce, social media, etc).

Applying the theory of retail theatre, the customers are the actors, the brands set the stage, and the retailer writes the script. Because this theatre never closes, it must constantly be refreshed. Retail theatre by definition dictates a reimagining of actual physical spaces. It also drives where, how big, and how many stores are required in this new environment.

To kick of the year, we explore of Dick’s House of Sport and their most recent, highly immersive format and how this has dictated where, why and how they build new store formats.



The first of Dick’s 100,000+ square-foot sports palaces, opened in April 2021 in Rochester, New York. A month later the wraps came off the second in West Town Mall, Knoxville TN. The third iteration opened in suburban Minneapolis. All three stores, are on sites of closed Sears stores.

Immersive product engagement was the brief to drive the development of the concept. Significant investment have been made in the development of customer interactive experiences including, an outdoor Olympic grade running track, a soccer field and hockey rink adjacent to the store as “testing grounds.”

In addition, Dick’s is supporting their customers and community by committing themselves to the development of community sports, driving growth in recreation as well as building lifetime customer value. How:

  • Engaging local hockey teams through ice-time rental and family open skating on their stadium-lit, outdoor ice rink

  • Summer camp sports programs are also planned

  • In-store events include home-school P.E. which speaks volumes to community outreach as well as building lifetime customer value

Inside the store there is so much more to physically play with experience and explore:

  • A 40-foot climbing wall to check out your kit and capability

  • Golf-bays provide a place to practice your swing

  • Baseball players can test multiple bats in a batting cage that checks swing velocity and distance

  • You can also get a custom fit, be it on a bike or for a Lacrosse stick

  • Finally you can find the best cleats among a selection of 400 in the House of Cleats (in Aussie or NZ I imagine it would be cricket pads?)

This next level experience also features incredible visual merchandising and display design to “heighten the sense of authentic sports”. Utilising more than 750 custom mannequins in extreme sports contortions these align with many individual specialised sports activities, meaning their is practically "something for everyone" throughout the store.



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