It's the latest in a string of unconventional retail strategies for the sportswear company, which has struggled in recent years to remain competitive against formidable opponents such as Nike and Under Armour. Adidas has been experimenting with an app to promote releases of limited edition shoes, and recently announced plans to build mini factories inside Adidas stores capable of constructing shoes right in front of your eyes.
Avenue A takes aim squarely at women, likely as women control 70% to 80% of all buying power. (Female athletes in particular are on trend.) "We’ve been working with and talking to tons of what we call ‘versatile female athletes’ for the past couple of years. We realize they have very busy lives, a lot of demands on their time, and one thing they kept requesting us was, ‘Help me simplify my life a little bit,’" Chris Brewer, director of running, says. "The idea of a quarterly box service became hit-yourself-on-the-head obvious to us."
The initial box is curated by New York "fitness artist" (we don't know what that means either) Nicole Winhoffer, and as will be the model for future boxes, only one item is revealed: A new pattern of Adidas's PureBoost X running shoe that hit store shelves last week. Other than that, subscribers only know that Avenue A will feature a mix of running and lifestyle gear—the sort of sportswear that, as Brewer puts it, may be worn during someone’s workout but all day after, too. In other words, it's Adidas's play at the athleisure trend.
From a business standpoint, the subscription service makes a lot sense for Adidas. The company is cutting out retail partners in this transaction, getting 100% of the revenue from anything it ships to your door (minus shipping fees). Even though Adidas isn’t promoting the value angle, it’s there, too: The box will feature an unspecified MSRP value above $150. Don’t like what you're sent? Adidas promises to remedy (whether through a refund or an exchange, it isn’t exactly clear).
"They won’t just get one thing, or repetitive collection of things," he says. "With the brand our size, and the breadth of what we have, we can continue for as long as we go forward to surprise and delight [the customer]." Adidas will also fine tune future shipments based upon community feedback.
The potential of Avenue A to attract brand loyalists gets particularly interesting when you start filtering its approach through Adidas’s limited edition releases, from new Yeezys to anything in their Adidas Originals line that sneakerheads will routinely line up to buy as collector’s items.
"We’re going to think about the possibility of limited release and hard to find items with future releases of the box," Brewer says. "Whether that’s Originals or something else ... I’m being vague on purpose because there are surprises in each box that people won’t be expecting in a typical fitness box." A men’s box could be on the way soon, too.
In any case, Avenue A probably doesn’t need to be a monster hit for it to be worthwhile business. If nothing else, it’s a way to ensure Adidas’s most loyal fans are catered to on a seasonal basis, all while billing them $600 a year for the privilege.