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New NBA Store Has an 'Endless Aisle' Thanks to E-Commerce Partner

Privately-held Fanatics saved the day when Porzingis jerseys sold out of the brick-and-mortar store.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

E-commerce is increasingly invading physical retail, and the National Basketball Association is jumping onboard.

The league’s new capabilities were on display on Monday at the grand opening of the new NBA flagship store at 5th Avenue and 45th Street in New York City. Blue Kristaps Porzingis Knicks jerseys sold out early in the day, forcing fans to place orders at the customization center in the store. But when the store ran out of blank blue jerseys too, the league’s new in-store partnership paid off.

The store is being run by Fanatics, an e-commerce company that sells licensed professional sports team apparel through and also operates the online storefronts for the four major American sports leagues. And, increasingly, the e-commerce company is running more brick-and-mortar stores for partners like the NBA as well.

 The hat display inside the new NBA Store in Midtown Manhattan, run by Fanatics
The hat display inside the new NBA Store in Midtown Manhattan, run by Fanatics

In the case of the Porzingis sell-out on Monday, store staff members were able to place orders online from handheld tablets that about half of them carry with them throughout the store. This capability, known in retail jargon as “the endless aisle,” will eventually be table stakes for modern physical stores. But for now, it is looked at as a competitive advantage that ensures a customer doesn’t leave disappointed.

“Most of the other retailers that have offered this service … have significantly more scale than just one store,” said Sal LaRocca, the NBA’s president of global operations and merchandising. “For us, this is a significant difference.”

E-commerce orders placed from the store are routed to Fanatics warehouses, which delivers the in-store order via free, next-day shipping directly to a customer’s home or hotel. The NBA and Fanatics have also outfitted the store with other modern retail accoutrements like large digital screens showing store maps, NBA highlights and information on every player in the league. Customers can also find some signed basketballs and jerseys from stars like Steph Curry thanks to Fanatics’ collectibles deals with some players.

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