Why the biggest Nike in Southeast Asia is in the Philippines

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At 1,400 sq feet, the new Fort store is larger than the Nike in Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore, which previously held the title. Photo courtesy of NIKE

When Nike announced that they would be opening their largest store in Southeast Asia in the Philippines, the big question was: why here? At 1,400 sq feet, the new store is larger than the Nike in Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore, which previously held the title.

The retail sector accounts for approximately 15 percent of the Philippines’ total Gross National Product (GNP) and 33 percent of the entire services sector. Prior to the pandemic, it was even projected to account for one-fifth of the country’s GDP by 2025. So for those watching the retail sector in the country since the pandemic hit, this was not as big a surprise.

After taking a major hit during the pandemic, it seems that stakeholders are confident that things will get better. Just look at how other global brands like Nike have opted to set up shop in the country. Furniture giant Ikea’s biggest store ever is in Pasay, and Uniqlo’s biggest store in Southeast Asia is in Makati. On the luxury retail front, Ayala Malls has even positioned Greenbelt as the Orchard Road or Rodeo Drive of the Philippines.

“The Philippines is Nike’s most successful market in the region,” said Tarundeep Singh, senior director of Nike Stores in Southeast Asia. But more than a place to shop for the latest (and most complete) drops from the brand, Nike execs want the store to be a sports hub and health and wellness destination that encourages Filipinos of all ages, genders, and backgrounds, to get into sport.

In an interview with CNN Philippines Life, he pointed out that the new store is also the only one to carry “the most diverse set of products for sport lovers across tennis, golf, yoga, skating, running and outdoors.” It is also the first to have an expansive children’s section. Below, he tells us about what makes the store, and the Philippine market special.

This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

One side of the women's section on the ground floor of Nike Fort. Photo courtesy of NIKE

Hi Tarundeep! Nike Fort is the largest in Southeast Asia. Why did Nike zero in on putting it in this location? 

The success of our brand is demonstrated by the opening of four stores over the past two years: Jordan in 2020; SM North EDSA and Glorietta in 2021; and Nike Fort in 2022. But our ongoing commitment to the Philippines society goes beyond just setting up the stores — we want to give back to the community and build a meaningful connection with the Filipino society.

As we celebrate Nike’s 50th anniversary this month and look to the Next 50, Nike wants to bring more young girls into sport. Nike Fort has the very first kids section to inspire more youngsters to play sports. At the same time, we have been working with our local partner, Girls Got Game to build a multi-purpose court in Santa Maria Bulacan, provide them with training and acquainting them with female role models. Last week, we brought more than 50 young girls to Nike Fort to meet with the Gilas Pilipinas Basketball Team who won a gold medal at the SEA Games in Vietnam. We see Nike Fort to be a beacon that will inspire Filipinos to not just play sport but also bring the community closer to one another.

Can you tell me about the design of the place and how it compares to the original BGC store and other Nike stores in the region or in Asia in general?   

The new Nike store was conceptualized as a playground to connect athletes and sport-minded members with one another. Running tracks on the floor, a characteristic feature of all Nike premises, be it our offices or stores, are a tribute to our founders, Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman both of who were runners.

At the same time, maintaining Nike Fort’s legacy of being a beacon of inspiration to all those living, working and playing sport in Bonifacio Global City, its retail design was thoughtfully conceived to include hyperlocal touches to connect with its surroundings, in particular the large wall mural [by Bitto].

The entrance was reconfigured and now features Nike’s energetic videos and branding displays on its digital panels. The interiors were remodelled to create the same look and feel Nike consumers will find in any of the stores across the globe.

Local artist Bitto with his wall mural in the exterior of the store. Photo courtesy of NIKE

A look at the expansive women's shoe collection, featuring the running tracks that are design features of all Nike premises. Photo courtesy of NIKE

[The] Nike Fort interiors open up to women’s wear containing a wide range of apparel and footwear. As we bring more women into sport, Nike is investing in her at every step and giving her more choice in her shopping experience. The space was thoughtfully designed to focus on women’s fitness journey by taking her lead.

The interior was also expanded to incorporate a basketball hoop which once again brings Filipinos closer to their beloved sport while also encouraging the young and old to indulge in an activity while shopping for their favorite gear.

Lastly, our aim was to connect the store with the local community and Bonifacio’s green space with running tracks, basketball courts, football pitches, parks and walking trails provided an ideal surround as well as inspiration to Nike Fort’s sports and wellness destination. This was highlighted by its external wall mural created by local artist, Bitto, who has explored relationships between female athletes, sport and local flavors with sport, while connecting it with Nike’s ethos of inspiring everyone to “Make Sport a Daily Habit.”

Are there any specific interior details in the store that you think people would appreciate?

More than the store design, we would like to share the store experiences, which will be the star highlights of the Nike Fort. Pride Run, Train with Pride, basketball and futsal clinics for kids, laughter yoga, tennis drills, pink bra customization for breast cancer awareness and family Nike Training Club for strength and conditioning are already planned at the experience studio. We even conducted our very first upcycling workshop and the slots were fully booked.

"Nike Fort is the first one to have a dedicated area for basketball lovers to shoot hoops. It also translates into a wellness destination that will focus on Nike’s five facets of fitness: movement, mindset, recovery, nutrition and sleep," says Singh. Photo courtesy of NIKE

I saw that the experience zones are in Nike Rise Seoul and Guangzhou as well. Why decide to bring this experience to Manila?

Nike is reinventing retail concepts. It is more than just a place to shop, instead, we want to create a sports hub that brings access to sport, adds value to the local community and creates a destination that brings consumers closer to sport and one another. Bonifacio’s green space with running tracks, basketball courts, football pitches, parks and walking trails, further provides an ideal surround to Nike Fort’s intention to be a sports and wellness destination.

Nike Fort is the first one to have a dedicated area for basketball lovers to shoot hoops. It also translates into a wellness destination that will focus on Nike’s five facets of fitness: movement, mindset, recovery, nutrition and sleep. The launch of Nike Fort already saw the very first Kids Yoga session and we aim to bring more such sporting activities for the whole family through group or 1:1 expert sessions tailored to each consumer’s personal goals.

Did the customer habits from previous Nike stores in Manila inform the way this branch would be stocked/designed? 

We are reinventing the shopping journey with women at the core and training our store staff to bring a variety of styling and shopping services to enable female shoppers find new sporting passions, provide them with deeper knowledge about women’s products — be it bras, tights as well as shoes — to find the right fit for the sport of their choice and also allocate a dedicated women-only shopping hours. Women’s First hour has been incredibly successful in our Glorietta store as well as across our other stores — Fort, Jordan, North Edsa, Trinoma, Ayala Bay and ATC — particularly during weekends. And finally, Nike By You collection is our best-selling product range. Nikeland x Roblox Nike by You Collection has been wildly successful the past 11 days since we opened the store. The Philippines has the secnd largest user base on Nikeland in the broader Asia Pacific region, and we have seen many youngsters customizing caps, totes and tees.

How did the team come up with these new women-centric services like the Women's First Hour and prioritized appointment hours/styling sessions? Was the decision to create these services drawn from previous consumer observations? 

Women are shaping a new future of fitness — one that is more inclusive, more unstructured and expressive, and centered on personal progress. This personal progress is happening in yoga studios, in dance sessions, in spin classes on and off the court, pitch and track by women being unapologetically authentic in all the ways they move their bodies. We’re taking action in this by investing in women at every step — from the research we’re doing to understand her body and how she moves to developing the perfect fit of her apparel to giving her more choice in her shopping experience.

Each of our shopping journeys are built around Her by deeply understanding her and building personalised experiences. Women’s first hour has been incredibly successful in our Glorietta store and many women make bookings across our eight flagship stores (Fort, Jordan, Glorietta, North Edsa, Trinoma, Ayala Bay, ATC), particularly during weekends. We are now looking to introduce 10-minute Tights Styling for our busy customers who work in the offices nearby during lunch time and help style women during their most convenient time.

One part of the men's section on the second floor of the store. Photo courtesy of NIKE

The store features an expansive children's section, which carries both apparel and shoes. Photo courtesy of NIKE

What does Nike envision the design of sportswear in the next 50 years?

Gender-neutral design that is inclusive is already a trend we are seeing. Secondly, we’re embracing a wider meaning of “athlete” and it’s adding fresh perspectives and creativity into sport. We have already seen dance and sport coming together and athletes taking up Zumba, K-dance and Body Jam. We will likely see this trend grow.

A larger movement of health and fitness is taking place around the world. As we become more mindful of wellness and manage our work-life balance, yoga, Tai-chi and other Eastern forms of sports will grow in popularity. All these sporting trends will continue to contribute to consumers’ desire to wear athletic footwear and apparel all moments of their lives which will expand the traditional definition of sport. There is also a fundamental shift in consumer behaviour towards digital but the use of technology will be throughout our value chain as we deliver through a best-in-class supply chain, sustainable sourcing model and efficient operations, which enable us to protect the future of our planet and sport while advancing our business for long-term success.

Lastly, the store is set to carry the region's widest range of Nike products. Can we also expect exclusive releases regularly?

Oh! Yes.