Connecticut retailer Trailblazer is living up to its name by splitting its 9,000-square-foot store in downtown New Haven into three smaller specialty shops that will focus on its two most popular categories, action sports and the traditional outdoor sports markets.
The new stores, each with their own names, will comprise three points of a triangle within the Broadway Shopping District near Yale University, flanked by national retailers such as American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, J.Crew and Thom Brown Shoes. Because the stores are located within 100 yards of each other, a single general manager will be able to oversee them all, said Chris Howe, one of three owners behind the venture.
The arrangement is designed to serve each niche better, while also leveraging Trailblazers 13-year history in southern Connecticut. The stores will coordinate advertising and redeem each others gift cards and merchandise credits.
“One of the things we have been struggling with in a metropolitan area was how to meet the needs of all our different customers, while at the same time dealing with the growth of particular brands,” said Howe. “The idea is to give more square footage to a series of brands that had been minimized due to growth of TNF and Merrell.”
The TRAFFIC concept will allow Howe and his partners to better tap into the skate and board culture that is more popular with the under-40 crowd.
Howe noted that Trailblazers metamorphosis has been prompted as much by a need to find a new space as it was by a master plan.
Howe and his partners did not sign a lease for the Denali store until early February, but now think they can bring the concept as well as the TRAFFIC brand to other metropolitan and suburban markets. In the meantime, they continue to operate two Trailblazer stores in Branford and at the Mohegan Sun Casino.
“We realize this is a bold move and we are, of course, nervous about it,” he said. “There is risk here, but we have had the opportunity to discuss this plan with people both in and outside of the industry and the majority thought it was a risk worth taking. Hopefully, we're on the right track.”