Fox Racing Sees Bentonville Store as Model for Future Retail
“I saw commitment from the government to the non-profits and to the overall community, embracing this as a real hub for mountain biking in the future, so that made it a perfect place for Fox,” said Jeff McGuane, president of Fox parent Vista Outdoor Inc.’s Action Sports group. “Over the last five years, the Oz Trails community has lived its purpose and has significantly established Bentonville as a leader in mountain bike development and very inclusive trail networks, for families all the way up to enthusiasts and technical riders.”
The city has become known as more than the home to Walmart Inc., with a growing network of trails and gravel that’s made it a beehive of activity for the cycling community. In late December, the U.S. National Mountain Bike Team said it would call Bentonville its official home for camps in the lead-up to the 2028 Olympic Games.
The Oz Trails McGuane mentioned are a network of more than 300 miles of trails aimed at making the region a recreational destination for locals and tourists alike.
Oz is part of the Runway Group, which was founded by Steuart Walton and Tom Walton – the grandsons of Walmart founder Sam Walton – as a vehicle to invest in community projects throughout Northwest Arkansas.
Fox’s Bentonville store is the first in a new retail vision for the company that McGuane called “community-embedded” stores.
“Fox retail in the past was very mall-based and at one point in time reached a national presence,” he said. “We had many stores across many markets. Over the last three years we’ve really re-envisioned that to be more embedded into the communities where there are people with a healthy affinity for our sports of mountain biking and motocross, and where we can play an essential role in helping inspire consumers around these types of experiences.”
Immersive Retail the Fox Way
The Bentonville store totals about 2,200 square feet of selling space, filled with mountain bike, motocross, and lifestyle apparel, alongside a mix of hardgoods.
In categories that Fox is not in, McGuane and team will look to bring in some of the company’s sister brands where they make sense.
Vista Outdoor bought Fox last August for $540 million plus as much as $50 million if certain performance targets are met in a deal that placed it under the same parent as outdoor lines such as Bell and Giro. The latter two are set to move from their Scotts Valley, California offices to Fox’s Irvine, California headquarters by Sept. 1.
Currently, the Bentonville location’s assortment includes products from Vista’s CamelBak and Blackburn lines.
Gear rentals, including pants and helmets, add to the store’s aim to be part of the riding experience.
Fox is also partnering with the city in other ways. For example, the city is installing video cameras in parts of the trail network similar to Surfline Sessions. Sensors, which consumers can stop by the Fox store to sign up for before their ride, can be attached to bikes to allow riders on those trails to be recognized by the cameras and have action shots taken of them.
“That’s a perfect example of the store being an activation point for the community,” McGuane said. “We’re experimenting with how we create that immersive experience.”
The company currently has around 25 stores globally, a combination of company-owned and third-party doors. That count could very well double in the future, McGuane said.
Fox is eyeing other potential sites for more of its next-generation retail concepts but hasn’t signed any leases.
Mountain states and places where mountain biking and motosports are strongest make sense.
“It’s timing, timing, timing,” McGuane said. “We don’t want to just be present. We want to be a focal point and serve a purpose in the community, not just transact.”
Ultimately, the stores are a branding play and not necessarily the main growth engine for the overall business looking ahead.
Fox’s larger growth plan rests on three core areas: products developed for the core motocross and mountain bike consumer, elevated lifestyle apparel that weaves in performance, and geographic expansion in places such as Asia and Latin America.
The company’s 2022 net sales were expected to be about $350 million with EBITDA of $55 million at the time of Vista’s acquisition (Since the acquisition, Vista has not broken out Fox’s financial results.)
However, Fox and Vista’s leadership team think it can ultimately grow to $1 billion in revenue.
The “integrative marketplace” McGuane said the Fox stores are a part of also includes investments in wholesale.
The company spent time trying to understand what retailers needed from Fox. The conclusion: More help enhancing their stores’ shopability. Fox has spent the past two years working with bicycle and powersports retailers, sending in the visual merchandising and retail design teams to help curate merchandise in stores. More than 150 installations have so far been completed.
On the digital side, the company’s working to better connect its wholesale partners and inventory via the POS system. The idea would allow consumers to buy online and pick up in wholesale accounts or shop directly from wholesale partners through the Fox site.
The company expects the integration to occur over the next 12 to 18 months.
“Big digital investments” are happening right now, McGuane said, not only to help sell product, but also to provide retailers with the analytics to manage sell-through and buying trends.
Said McGuane: “We’re using the fox.com platform as a demand creation engine across all stakeholders.”
Kari Hamanaka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.