On Running Will Open New Retail Store in Northwest Portland

ON Running shoes

At the launch event for On's new retail store in Northwest Portland on Friday night, guests will be treated to music from a DJ and indulge in oysters and sushi as part of the VIP experience.

Eight miles away at Nike's 400-acre campus, the atmosphere will be markedly different as the industry giant concludes the first week of a significant round of layoffs. This marks Nike's first mass layoff since 2020 as the company undergoes restructuring efforts and endeavors to reignite its innovation initiatives.

The disparity underscores the current turbulence within the sneaker industry, a hallmark sector of Oregon's economy. While Nike, a native powerhouse, has long reigned supreme, its growth has tapered off in recent times. Meanwhile, emerging players such as On, Hoka, and Brooks have been capitalizing on evolving consumer preferences for fresh offerings.

"The consumer was telling us before the pandemic that they wanted new and unique brands and unique products. Hoka and On are examples of brands that provide that and are winning right now. The marketplace has changed."

- Matt Powell, senior adviser for BCE Consulting

Established in 2010 amid the picturesque Swiss Alps, On, headquartered in Zurich, has gained prominence for its distinctive square-shaped soles, coined as "run on clouds." Experiencing a surge in popularity, the brand recorded a remarkable 47% sales increase in its latest quarter. Notably, this quarter marked the seventh consecutive period of record-breaking revenue. In 2021, On ventured into the public domain, further solidifying its position in the industry.

The new Portland store, set to open its doors on Saturday, spans 3,400 square feet. Positioned at the intersection of Northwest 23rd Avenue and Hoyt Street, the store stands just a mile away from the company's Americas headquarters in the vibrant Pearl District.

The grand opening celebrations on Saturday kick off with a trail run reminiscent of a scavenger hunt through Forest Park, commencing at 9 a.m. Participants stand the chance to win exciting prizes, including a trip to participate in a mountain race.

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"It makes sense to have a retail store in Portland because this is our home and it's close to our Americas headquarters."

- Britt Olsen, On's general manager of the Americas and head of global commercial strategy

In 2013, On established a modest office in Portland, attracted by the city's rich talent pool fostered by major players like Nike, Columbia Sportswear, and Adidas North America headquarters. Among On's initial hires in the U.S. was Ted Goodlake, who previously worked at Nike.

ON Running store

Olsen became part of On's Portland office in 2014. She recalled that back then, the office furniture mainly comprised an Ikea table.

"We outgrew it when we got to five people."

- Olsen

Since then, On has expanded its global workforce from 30 employees to approximately 2,400. Its presence in Portland has also seen substantial growth.

Last year, the company expanded its office space in the Tanner Point building, doubling it to 60,000 square feet. Its Portland workforce has grown to about 260 employees, including retail staff, and its presence in the Americas now totals around 500 employees, nearly double from a year ago.

On intends to establish a small team in Portland responsible for designing and developing products, a task traditionally handled exclusively in Zurich.

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The newly opened Portland store exhibits the full range of the company's product line, featuring apparel and shoes for running, trail running, tennis, and everyday wear. The store's aesthetic reflects a clean and modern design, in line with the company's Swiss origins and design principles.

"You see it very much in our product. Minimalism. Do more with less. This inspires us. Materials are really important."

- Olsen

At the heart of the store lies a prominent self-serve shoe wall, dubbed the "magic wall" by On, thanks to its concealed shelves designed to facilitate swift and convenient shoe trials for customers.

Additionally, the store provides demo pairs for customers interested in test-running shoes around the block. Olsen envisions the store, situated near Forest Park, becoming a focal point for runners in the area.

"It's all about creating the experience in-store where people can demo actual product."

- Olsen

Traditionally, On distributed its footwear and apparel via wholesale partners such as sporting goods stores and running retailers. As part of its expansion strategy, the company aims to launch up to 20 new stores this year, with locations planned for Berlin, Austin, and Chicago, with the majority slated for China. Because On is optimistic about China's huge consumer market for shoes.

While the company is broadening its distribution channels, Olsen emphasized that the core focus will remain unchanged.

"We've been so successful for the past 13 years focusing on ourselves and the technology and innovation we’re offering. That's what we’re going to keep focused on."

- Olsen
ON Running store