NBA setting up shop in NY, beating brethren to retail

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The National Basketball Association this week will announce plans for a flagship NBA Store in New York, beating other pro sports leagues in launching a branded retail outlet for licensed products.

The 15,000-square-foot store will open in September 1998 at 666 Fifth Ave., in the same neighborhood as the flagship locations for such entertainment-themed retail enterprises as Walt Disney Co.'s Disney Store and Time Warner's Warner Bros. Studio Store.

"We see it as a terrific brand statement," said Bill Daugherty, VP-business development at NBA Properties, the league's business division. "It's an opportunity to bring our fans closer to the game and present ourselves in a very dramatic way on one the foremost retailing streets in the world."

OTHER CITIES, COUNTRIES

Eventually, the NBA will take the stores to other parts of the country and overseas, but Mr. Daugherty said the strategy is not to take the NBA Store to malls.

The NBA Store will be stocked with merchandise marketed by NBA licensees. Product offerings will range from apparel to toys and games to equipment.

Mr. Daugherty doesn't believe the NBA Store in Manhattan will compete with department stores or such basketball merchandise outlets as Foot Locker.

"History has been pretty clear . . . that flagship stores like this enhance the local business as it raises the visibility of the product," said Mr. Daugherty.

NBA Properties also believes the store will make it a better licenser, with the learning gained from thinking like a retailer informing their relationships with licensees.

NEAR NBA HEADQUARTERS

With the outlet located across the street from NBA headquarters, "it serves like a laboratory for our consumer products division," added Mr. Daugherty. "We can observe first-hand how consumers respond to our product."

The store will have a half-sized basketball court with bleachers, as well as a plethora of video monitors that carry programming from NBA Entertainment or real-time game broadcasts.

Other pro sports leagues are mulling similar moves.

The National Football League, for example, has long had a concept called NFL X on the drawing board. Reports have said the league has scouted several Manhattan locations, but a spokesman wouldn't comment as to when its plans would reach fruition.

Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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