Li Ning, Beijing

The Chinese sportswear retailer wins shoppers’ hearts by staying true to its namesake and the idea of going somewhere – win or lose
Posted January 16, 2013
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They say it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. And while so many retailers are still focused on wins – winning a new customer, winning a sale – Storeage (Amsterdam, Netherlands) designers knew they needed a concept for sportswear retailer Li Ning (Hong Kong) that was about more than victory.

Keeping Chinese culture in mind was a priority, so Storeage designers organized co-creation sessions with Li Ning designers and ramped up their consumer research efforts. “We researched the meaning of the word ‘cool’ amongst Chinese consumers and understood that the idea of movement and the path of going somewhere was what intrigued the Chinese consumer most,” explains Leendert Tange, a Storeage partner and co-founder.

With movement in mind, Tange and his team crafted a strikingly geometric aesthetic for Li Ning’s four-floor retail space. It’s apparent in the angled, stainless steel façade, which uses multicolored LEDs that “walk” by, moving in tandem alongside passing pedestrians. And it’s visible to shoppers stepping onto playful bamboo flooring laid in a zigzagged, gymnasium-like pattern over recycled rubber.

Throughout the space angled aluminum ceiling beams “collide,” indicating new display areas. On the ground floor, a “blender of footwear” display uses curved, ascending glass shelves suspended with metal wires to tempt shoppers toward upper floors.

Because the store is named for Olympic gymnast Ning Li, Tange knew staying close to the company’s roots was critical. “We carefully selected materials that ooze a Chinese heritage, like bamboo flooring,” he says. “And we coupled highlighted fixtures with red and golden details on a retail branded level with a more forward-thinking façade and colored metals where needed for category specific fixtures,” he says.

Instead of using banked mannequins, Tange merchandised equipment, apparel and footwear on freestanding bamboo displays in the long, narrow space. The displays leave ample open floor space, allowing shoppers to flow around them toward wall presentations. And if these shoppers should grab some merchandise to wear on the field or in the gym later, the company might even be moved to sell it to them – a victory all around.

Project Suppliers

Retailer: Li Ning, Beijing

Design Team: Li Ning Co. Ltd., Hong Kong; Storeage, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Leendert Tange, partner and co-founder; Ian Clarke, designer; Li Kang, designer

Architect: Storeage China, Shanghai

Ceilings, Fixtures, Flooring, Wallcoverings and Materials, General Contractor: HTHY, Beijing

Furniture: BCR Display and Fixture Company, Shanghai

Lighting: Philips (China) Investment Co. Ltd., Shanghai

Mannequins/Forms, Props and decoratives, Signage/graphics: No. 8 Beijing

Photography: Colin Jones, Chongqing, China