Many businesses have come and gone during the last two years of the pandemic, but one sector that seems to be thriving? Wellness - in particular, sportswear and activewear.
If you haven't already noticed, sportswear brands like Decathlon and Lululemon have been extending their reach, opening new stores in Singapore to cater to the rising demand for fitness apparel and gear.
Recently, Nike made its move too, by transforming its outlet store at IMM into a concept store called Nike Unite, which boasts an accessible, community-driven layout as well as exclusive services and offerings to get us all excited about in-person activewear shopping.
The newly refurbished 18,000 sq ft store offers something for everyone, regardless of gender, age and sport.
"Nike Unite is fundamentally about helping consumers connect closely with sport by bringing the most valuable sport destination to the community and creating experiences that are rooted in serving people," said Sylvelin Ng, director Southeast Asia & India at Nike Value Marketplace.
This is the first Nike Unite store in Singapore. Currently, there's one Nike Unite store in South Korea, two in China, five in the United States, and one store in both Germany and the United Kingdom.
Wondering if it's worth making a trip down? These reasons will help you decide.
#1: You've been trying to find sports shoes that really fit
Finding the sports shoes of your dreams - whether it's for running, weight training or walking - is often harder than it seems. That's because every shoe model is designed and cut differently.
For instance, just because you wear US 8 for a particular model of running shoes, it doesn't mean that all running shoes (regardless of brand) in US 8 will be the perfect fit for you.
Similarly, the recommended size for gym shoes might differ from the size of your running shoes, simply because of the different cuts and the different types of movements that each shoe is built for.
The best way to ensure a good fit? Try the shoes in person, preferably in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest, with the socks you'd usually wear (if any).
Another method you can place your bet on: The NikeFit shoe-fitting service that's currently unique to the Nike Unite IMM store.
This tech-enabled shoe-fitting service involves scanning your feet based on computer vision, machine learning and recommendation algorithms that measure the full shape of both feet to determine the best fit for each shoe style.
These measurements get saved in your Nike app pretty seamlessly, and will come in handy the next time you're shopping for shoes in Nike and trying to recall your size. Yes, it happens.
TLDR: Try the shoes in person, and go for the NikeFit shoe-fitting service. That's a fail-proof strategy to find the best-fitting shoes.
#2: You're looking for cool, personalised gifts
Gift-shopping for those who seem to have everything is as tough as reading the mind of your partner who says "anything". That's why customised gifts will always have a place in the market.
Located at the right side of the Nike Unite store's entrance is a service hub where you can go to get personalised T-shirts.
How it works: Choose your T-shirt colour and size, then pick up to two iconic Nike heritage decals to appear at the front and/or back of the shirt in various placement options.
Or you can opt for the typography option, where you can have up to six letters and two numbers heat pressed on the T-shirt.
The T-shirts will be printed on the spot for same-day collection, so you might want to get the order(s) sorted first thing when you enter the store, to minimise the wait time.
#3: You need to stock up on sports bras
Fact #1: Women should go for a sports bra fitting once a year, as our body and boob sizes may change due to hormones, weight loss/gain etc.
Fact #2: Just like sports shoes, sports bras also experience wear and tear, losing their elasticity over time. A rule of thumb is to replace your sports bras every year, especially pieces that you wear most often.
If your sports bra has been stretched out from multiple washes, or feels less supportive than before, it's a sign to get a new piece.
FYI: Breast tissue damage is irreversible, and the damage speeds up sagging.
Similar to the principles of sports shoe fitting, a sports bra fitting will ensure you get the right size for the specific design. Wearing size M in a particular design doesn't mean that size M in all other designs will be your perfect fit.
At the Nike Unite store, you can get bra fittings done by trained female store athletes. Choose from the wide range of light-, medium- and high-support sports bras that cater to different needs, or get recommendations from the store athletes.
Generally, light-support bras are meant for yoga and low-impact studio workouts, medium-support bras are good for hiking, racquet sports, gym training and running (if you are on the smaller side), while high-support bras are designed for HIIT, running, boxing and other high-impact activities that involve big or jumping movements.
Here's something we really love about the Nike Unite store at IMM: It offers a dedicated changing area for women in the women's section, just as it has a dedicated changing area for men in the men's section.
We see this as a step towards more customer-centric shopping, and perhaps a sign to talk more freely about bras and sizes in changing rooms, paving the way for more honest shopping experiences.
Less of the awkward "no, it's okay" exchanges with store staff, maybe?
Also, good to know: Close to 50 per cent of the floor space is dedicated to women and kids, so you can shop for anything from shoes to apparel for running, yoga, dance and gym training.
Sounds like the perfect setup for a shopping date with workout buddies!
#4: You're short of things to do with your fam
There are countless family-friendly places to check out and things to do in Singapore.
But if you are ever out of ideas, the Nike Unite store at IMM is somewhere you can expect to spend a productive one to two hours, getting yourself and your loved ones kitted with activewear, lifestyle apparel and footwear for all sorts of occasions.
Look forward to locally curated products including everyday essentials at great value, combined with select seasonal offerings from Nike.com across men, women and kids.
Even if your family members aren't exactly active or sporty, they will leave the store feeling inspired and maybe even motivated enough to pick up a sport or start a workout habit.
"At Nike, we believe that everybody is an athlete; regardless of age or ability - if you have a body, you are an athlete," said Sylvelin Ng, director Southeast Asia & India at Nike Value Marketplace.
"With informed and well-trained store athletes, 50 per cent of whom are women, combined with over 60 per cent bigger floorspace comprising locally curated essentials, we aim to help consumers connect more closely with sport and bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete."
#5: Experience Nike's first-of-its-kind phygital shopping experience
In this digital age, many retailers are refining or revamping their customer journey maps for more seamless and immersive shopping experiences, often by combining physical (offline) and digital (online) services in a move called "phygital".
It's no surprise that Nike, as a sportswear giant, is going phygital too.
New to this Nike Unite store is their "try in store and shop online" service, where you get to try selected products in the store, and buy them online via scanning a QR code on the product tag.
You could also search the items on Nike.com, of course. Delivery is free.
We understand that the products under this service are seasonal and often highly sought-after, so being available for online-only purchase helps with inventory management, ensuring that there's a piece (shoe or apparel) in your size when you head to the store to try it out.
One of the "try in store and shop online" products? This mega-cute Serene Design Crew Women's Tennis Jumpsuit ($99) that lets us channel the chic, utility-inspired look.
Designed by New York-based designers that were handpicked by tennis legend Serena Williams, this nylon jumpsuit is everything fun and functional: The front zip, the loose and flattering fit, plus the zipped pockets near the waist.
Disclosure: Trying on the jumpsuit - in which only one piece per size is available in store - made me want to buy it ASAP.
It was then that I understood the rationale for this "try in store and shop online" service. With that, more shoppers get a chance to try the piece before buying.
Other "try in store and shop online" products include highly-rated running shoes, such as the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 Women's Road Racing Shoes ($299) that are loved for their great responsiveness and ground feel, as well as redesigned uppers for maximum breathability.
As much as we are happy shopping online from the comfort of our couch, the Nike Unite store has given us plenty of reasons to head to IMM, whether or not we live in the west.
A return trip is in order.
The Nike Unite concept store is located at #02-50 IMM, and is open from 10am to 10pm daily.
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This article was first published in Her World Online.