Hoka Opening First U.S. Flagship on Fifth Avenue in New York City

More from Footwear News

Hoka has picked New York City to be the site of its first flagship.

The red-hot sneaker brand will open a 9,000-square-foot store at 579 Fifth Ave. on June 7. The shop, located right off 47th Street, replaces a pop-up two blocks south and joins a smaller location in the Flatiron district.

In one of her first interviews, Robin Green, Hoka’s president, said the brand had tested the waters in retail through a pop-up model as “an opportunity for us to immerse ourselves in different communities. They’ve been really successful and it was a little bit of a test-and-learn model until we were ready to really commit to a full permanent retail location.”

Green said Hoka picked New York’s Fifth Avenue because it attracts both local and international clientele. “It’s an opportunity for us to really engage with the local community within New York, but also have a cross pollination of so many different consumers from all around the world. There’s no better retail in the U.S. from a footprint perspective than New York City. So to have the opportunity to be in Midtown with the space that we were able to secure to really put the brand front and center in front of the world is pretty amazing.”

Green said the goal was to “create an environment where people feel welcome — this is something that’s really important to the brand: feeling like you can step into our organization whether you’re a serious runner, a casual mover, or you’re just interested in lifestyle product, and really feel welcomed by the brand.”

The shop will “showcase the latest and greatest from an innovation perspective,” she said, and the goal is for people to come in and really immerse themselves in the brand and everything it offers, whether that’s road racing, trail running or hiking shoes, or apparel.

The space is also designed to become a community gatherring space for local athletes.

“New York is a hotbed for runners, whether you’re in Central Park, Brooklyn or Midtown, so we want to create a space where the running community can come in, not only experience the brand, but also have an opportunity to experience the camaraderie amongst themselves.”

She said the lower level was designed as a place where people can socialize, leave their belongings while they go for a run or test product.

Hoka, store, NYC
Hoka, store, NYC

Although apparel is still a small part of Hoka’s overall business — less than 10 percent of its $1.8 billion in sales — Green believes it’s a category with major growth potential. Saying that the store was going to have “an absolutely powerful apparel offering. We’re probably more known as a footwear brand, but we will have a full assortment of apparel across both genders that really amplifies the footwear.” While there will be pieces targeted to the more serious performance-oriented consumer, she said Hoka is “also opening the aperture to make sure we serve all individuals who choose to move or choose to just be more casual.”

Down the road, she said, apparel is expected to double its penetration to mid-teens, she said. “It’s something that we know consumers want from us. We’re getting a lot of traction on the apparel through e-comm.” She said Hoka apparel will continue to be positioned in the “more premium, elevated space,” and “just as innovative, and industry leading as our footwear is, we expect our apparel to be a very quick, fast follow and to become a significant portion of our portfolio going forward.”

Hoka also operates eight stores in the U.S. including locations in Los Angeles and Chicago and is looking at what Green characterized as “a key city focus” both domestically and internationally for future growth. Hoka just opened its first store in Paris, a 1,500-square-foot unit at 35 Boulevard des Capucines in the Opéra neighborhood, located “right on the marathon course for the Olympics,” she said, describing the store as “a great opportunity for us to really establish a more permanent footprint in another amazing international city.”

She said that while retail will “play a critical role in terms of our growth trajectory,” she declined to cite a number of stores the company hopes to open.

“We want to be really surgical and strategic about where and how quickly we open doors to make sure we’re not only thinking about our own DTC business, but about the integrated marketplace strategy for Hoka. We know that this is going to be a huge opportunity — consumers want to come in and experience brands from a tactile brick and mortar perspective, and we’re very aware of that. But we also want to be just really thoughtful on where we choose to open.”

Green joined Hoka in February after 17 years with Nike and inherited one of the fastest growing brands in the footwear industry. In the fourth quarter alone, Hoka’s sales rose 34 percent to $533 million, and for the year, they jumped 27.9 percent to $1.807 billion with two-thirds of the business coming from the U.S. and the remainder from overseas.

Although she’s only been in the job for a short time, she’s feeling enthusiasm rather than pressure.

“The trajectory of growth for Hoka has been incredible,” she said. “The last three years have been industry defining, to be honest, and I think what we’re most excited about is that we’ve got so much upside both in the domestic markets and international markets. Our brand awareness continues to grow at a pretty high clip and we have a lot of upside in those numbers to really extend the brand.”

She said Hoka is “continuing to double down” in areas where it has had strength historically such as road and trail running, but will also work to expand its lifestyle offerings, which are “a relatively small part of our portfolio. “We’re barely scratching the surface as a brand, which is why I don’t think the momentum is going to slow down anytime soon,” she said.

“We’re not resting on our laurels by any stretch of the imagination so I look at it as an energizing moment versus a stressful moment. The team is extremely passionate, very well connected in the industry and to the consumer, and I’m very confident in what we have coming from a product, retail and consumer perspective.”

Hoka was a pioneer in the maximalist cushioned shoe category and the company continues to push the envelope. One of its most recent entrants is the Skyward X which features a carbon fiber plate system, its trademarked MetaRocker toe and two layers of foam that measures a whopping 48 mm stack height and a 5 mm drop.

That height, however, is illegal and is banned by World Athletics which requires a height of 40 mm or less.

Green said Hoka knew that it would “exceed the rules” for competitive running events and is positioning the Skyward as a training shoe. “It was really intended to push what is possible from a cushioning innovation perspective,” she said. “But it is intended to be a training shoe. Obviously, people use these shoes for a lot of different reasons. But we knew we were exceeding what was going to be allowed from a regulators’ perspective. It was really an opportunity for us to push and see what’s possible, and then take those learnings and knock them back a little bit in other models.”

But the height doesn’t seem to be an issue for most consumers. The Skyward, which sells for $225, has been “very well received,” she said, and is selling out in some locations.

The Skyward will be one of the products proudly on display at the new flagship which Green said was a “cross functional team effort.”

She concluded: “Hoka has got great penetration in the U.S. but we feel like having this anchor in New York for the world to see is only going to continue to amplify the brand. And we’re looking forward to celebrating the moment.”

Best of Footwear News

Sign up for FN's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.