600 North Michigan Avenue Mens Fashion

Hi-tech Under Armour Opens on the Mile

Monday, March 23, 2015 tgoandco

Finding new things to do in the cold is challenging. With the promise of Spring around the corner,  outdoor activities won’t be far behind. Under Armour is looking to gear you up for those activities, so they opened the latest in high tech retail spaces on Michigan Avenue. Located at 600 N. Michigan, at the corner of Michigan and Ohio, the 30,000 square foot space is impressive the moment you walk in. This Chicago Brand House seeks to give buyers a complete brand experience and tell the story of Under Armour in an interactive way. Like their other locations in Washington DC (Tyson’s Corner) and Soho, the store is a complete immersion that seeks to inform as well as be fun. This is the largest Under Armour store in the world. “We’ve had our eye on this location for some time. When it became available, we jumped on it. We really wanted to be here.” said Susie McCabe, Senior Vice President of Global Retail.

 One enters the store from Michigan Avenue into a rotunda of LED lights that leads shoppers to two floors of cutting-edge products and apparel including: outdoor, basketball, team sports, training, running, golf, studio, youth, footwear and cleats. The LED rotunda is lit up by a small portion of the nearly 23.5 million LED lights that jazz up the retail environment. There is much to see. They position the space to be a destination spot for shoppers, sports enthusiasts and tourists. The target market is the active individual who takes sports seriously and want the most technological advanced apparel they can find for their sport. And yes, while much of the apparel is technologically savvy, it is also attractive — even the camo.

Compression for Performance

Under Armour is an originator in performance and compression wear — form-fitting garments made from stretchy material. The compression in the sportswear keeps muscles warm to prevent muscle strain and fatigue. These garments also provide wicking to take sweat away from the body to prevent chafing and rashes. Under Armour products are designed to make athletes perform better.  They rely heavily on an athlete’s feedback to ensure the product lives up to standards. The brand was started by Maryland football player Kevin Plank. Plank wanted a t-shirt that would pull the sweat away from his body when he played. In his grandmother’s basement, he came up with HeatGear®. The fabric is engineered with moisture-wicking properties so athletes can keep cool, dry and at the same time be wearing something that is incredibly light. A year later, he came up with a fabric called ColdGear® which keeps athletes warm, dry and is also light weight but made for cold conditions. Much of the merchandise in the store is made from these proprietary fabrics. These fabrics feel great. There is a noticeable difference when compared to regular cotton garments. They are incredibly light but feel soft, smooth and silky. Many of the shirts and even the pants offer 4-way stretch. Some garments offer UPF 30+ protection on damaging sunrays. Much of the garments construction is well thought out and designed: waistbands allow for expansion without having a shirt pull out, pocket bags that  stretch with the garment or seam locations that allow for greater movement and mobility while at the same time look cool.

Cleats and Shoes... but not a Stilettos in the House.

The shoe department is ample with a complete variety of everything needed for an athlete’s foot including cleats. The Cleat area has a training area so buyers can try out cleats on turf just like in real life scenarios before they buy. Many of the shoes offer the latest in shoe technology that provides cushion as well as stability when running. Some running shoes provide a Change-Cushioning technology that allows the shoe to cushion when not running but then steps up in firmness when engaged in a sport. Designed to be lightweight, their shoes preform like a second skin and allow the foot to breath while providing support. The cleats are now the best selling and most recommended cleat available. Some cleats offer the proprietary ClutchFit® that allows users to get performance without having to wrap or tape.

Calorie Free Fitness Bar

While at the store, one can check out the brand’s first ever Fitness Bar. The Fitness Bar (similar to the Genius Bar at Apple) offers a complete range of wearable fitness devices from brands like Garmin, Pebble and Misfit. As this is a new and budding market, others additions to the roster to be added in the near future. These devices are designed to keep you plugged in while working out. Under Armour sees this as huge step up in training. It offers the athlete direct and instant feedback during performance. These devices, activity trackers and sport watches all integrate with UA Record®. UA Record is an online health and fitness network with 120 million members and is the most comprehensive network of it’s kind. The network helps athletes train, perform and live as well as an opportunity to meet or spur others on to better performance. Under Armour sees this as a way to enhance the way athletes train. At the store, shoppers can log on and set up a UA Record membership and start connecting with other members to build/participate in a community of athletes.  UA Record also integrates with other performance trackers and programs to enhance and support the user experience. A side note (but an important one): the app is FREE.

For the Sportman

The new Michigan Avenue store will be the first to feature the UA Hunt® and UA Fish® brands. For the huntsman, Under Armour has a nice sized area of the store to display their Ridge Reaper® Camo. Designed specifically for the hunter, this gear offers lots of high tech features like scent control strips that hold antimicrobial powder to suppress odors or detectable smells. Some garments offer infrared technological fabrics that are soft but also retain and absorb body heat in the freezing cold. And yes, the stuff looks good and is surprisingly sexy.

Kid Sports

Kids are not left out. The store has an amazing array of kids clothing displayed in a retail environment that kids will want to come to. As UA see it, kids start small and grow to become great athletes. Many of the athletes who work with Under Armour (Stephen Curry or Misty Copeland) started their passion as kids. This budding passion needs to grow and be nurtured. Young athletes can test their “readiness” by participating in an Optojump experience — an interactive digital experience designed to revolutionize athletic training and preparation. Kids can monitor their progress with a high jump tracker that records their height, weight and performance. They can track their performance as they visit the store over the course of time to check progress — and yes, it's free too.

Michigan Avenue Sport — Tourist Watching

Finally, for the tourist there is also a specialty location in the store to reinforce ties to Chicago. A large living wall of ivy inspired by the Wrigley Field is a focal point within the space.  The Brand House also offers localized Chicago apparel that celebrates the legacy of the city in both sport and style. Under Armour has existing partnerships with local athletic institutions, including the Chicago Cubs, University of Notre Dame and Northwestern University with merchandise that uses their proprietary technology or is actually used by star athletes. Some of this equipment is made specifically for these star athletes. Shopper can walk out with Stephen Curry apparel that is made specifically to his standards and size. It is like wearing Stephen Curry's pants. Some of this merchandise is produced in a limited run and being tested perhaps to be integrated in the complete line later. It’s like being a beta-tester for underwear.

This is a fun visit and a good way to get out of the cold. Check out Under Armour's store soon. Also things to note: the gear is high-tech but without a high-tech price. I was surprised at the price points of much of the merchandise — it was affordable and really well made. It won't break a budget. Full disclosure here: I am not an athlete and I was impressed. I have my masters in fashion design — and yes, I was impressed with their product.  The UA Chicago Brand House will be open Monday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., on Sundays 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and can be reached at 312-690-5094. 

Written by Thom Olson
for HalfStack

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