The Kraken Team Store at Chandler’s Cove opened Friday in an old lakefront restaurant space. (Courtesy Seattle Kraken)
New team store safely satisfies demand for merch with shopping by appointment
The Seattle Kraken’s new team store provides a glimpse of retail at sports venues built for the comeback from COVID-19.
The Kraken Team Store at Chandler’s Cove sits less than two miles northeast of Climate Pledge Arena, where the NHL expansion team is scheduled to start play in October 2021. The off-site store opened Friday. Customers book appointments online and are required to wear face masks, apply hand sanitizer and have their temperature checked before they enter the store through touchless automatic doors. Merchandise displays are spaced 6 feet apart as part of social distancing rules.
The store, which sits along the waterfront in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, is a retrofit of an old restaurant with 5,500 square feet of sellable space, said Janeil MacKay, the Kraken’s retail director.
Kraken Chief Operating Officer Victor de Bonis hired MacKay, who runs a retail consultancy, to launch the merchandise program and develop retail at Climate Pledge Arena. She spent eight years managing retail for the Vancouver Canucks, where de Bonis was the Canucks’ COO.
MacKay is working in tandem with BDA, the team’s third-party retail provider.
Officials found the Chandler’s Cove location in January. They loved the views of the water and thought the space was large enough to accommodate fans amid the excitement that had been building since the NHL officially announced the franchise in December 2018.
Construction started in February before the pandemic hit in March and stopped work for a few months. It wasn’t until July, shortly before they opened, that officials began to implement the protocols required to run a retail store according to city and state guidelines. They book 30 appointments every 20 minutes, which equates to 90 an hour and 720 a day.
“Any retail expert hasn’t had to think about these things before. It’s new for all of us,” MacKay said. “Having plexiglass stanchions and spacing fixtures apart and having temperature checks … it’s a different landscape. We looked elsewhere in the industry to make sure we were following protocols and understood how many people could be in the store at a certain time.”
The staggered times, which factor in a 20- to 30-minute visit per customer, meet local restrictions, MacKay said. To date, most time slots have been filled, with midweek a little lighter than weekends. Customers understand the need for a controlled environment, and there hasn’t been a reduction in sales or lack of enthusiasm for the brand.
“It’s been a positive because people aren’t jammed moving around the store,” she said. “It’s comfortable. We monitor traffic flow. The only time people have to wait longer than their scheduled appointment is when some fans take a little more time shopping, which backs things up a bit. For the most part, it’s worked smoothly.”
The few random walk-ups that did not get the message about making appointments are allowed to enter the team store if the store is not too busy. It has been only a handful, and officials try not to turn them away, MacKay said.
Less than one week after the store opened, the outlet is on its second run of Kraken-branded masks after selling out the first allotment. A package of three masks sells for $30. T-shirts cost $25 to $49, hoodies $44 and $69, and hats $19 to $39.
MacKay tries to make sure the team store is competitive with Fanatics, which runs online retail for all NHL teams.
In early August, about two weeks after the Kraken name was announced, the team shattered the sales record for an NHL expansion club set by the Vegas Golden Knights leading up to the 2017-18 season. The Kraken sold four times the amount of merchandise, according to multiple reports.
The Kraken’s secondary logo, the jersey shoulder patch design with the space needle on top and an anchor at the bottom, has outsold the primary mark of an old English script S, MacKay said.
“For brick and mortar, we try to bring things in that are unique and that you can’t find on NHL.com,” she said.
For Climate Pledge Arena, the Kraken plans to issue a proposal in the coming weeks for running merchandise, including the 5,700-square-foot team store, said Steve Mattson, the facility’s executive vice president and general manager for Oak View Group. (OVG owns VenuesNow).
Delaware North Sportservice, Climate Pledge Arena’s food provider, is expected to compete for the business, Mattson said. As it stands now, the arena development team is six months into designing the arena’s team store with Populous, the project architect. They’re mindful of proper spacing and queues during the COVID era, recognizing the unpredictability of the coronavirus.
“We foresee when we open the arena in October 2021 that we might have some of these guidelines in place, not knowing what the world will look like by then,” MacKay said. “I’m sure some things will carry through.”