Radio Flyer is banking on bricks-and-mortar in Schaumburg, Illinois, where the little red wagon maker is opening the first retail location in its 106-year history.
Radio Flyer will sell stroller wagons, tricycles, scooters, go-karts and bikes from the 15,000-square-foot location on the first floor of Woodfield Mall, which was set to open Friday. The store will also feature a racetrack and a bike shop where shoppers can test ride products.
“We feel like it’s a great time for people to reconnect with us in a different way, in a physical store where they can touch and see the products,” said Robert Pasin, chief wagon officer.
Pasin, who has run the company since 1997, is the grandson of Antonio Pasin, a carpenter who launched the company under the name Liberty Coaster on Chicago’s West Side in 1917, three years after he immigrated from Italy.
The company is still based on Grand Avenue in Chicago's Belmont Cragin neighborhood, where workers at its prototype shop develop new products. Radio Flyer does not manufacture its own toys, which are made mostly in China but also in the U.S., Pasin said. The company completed a renovation of its headquarters in 2017.
The original steel red wagon is no longer a bestseller.
“Radio Flyer’s always been about hauling kids and cargo,” Pasin said, though the most popular vehicles for doing so have shifted over time.
These days, stroller wagons, which can either be pushed like strollers or pulled like wagons, are bestsellers. Radio Flyer launched a Tesla Model S for kids in 2016 and electric bikes in 2021, hoping to appeal to families trying to replace car trips with bike rides.
“What we’ve discovered is that a lot of people still have not ridden an electric bike and they don’t really understand what it is until they get on it,” Pasin said.
“If you’re going up a hill, or if you’re riding into a headwind, or if you’re commuting somewhere and don’t want to show up all sweaty, you know, then you can use the benefit of a boost from the motor,” he said. “There’s this expression people get when they first ride an electric bike. It’s almost like a kid, you know, riding a bike for the first time.”
Novices will be able to test e-bikes at the Woodfield store.
Radio Flyer sells its products via major retailers such as Walmart, Amazon and Target as well as its own website. The company would eventually like to open more in-person retail locations around the country, Pasin said.
Chris Speca, general manager of Woodfield, which is owned by Simon Property Group, said the Radio Flyer store underlines the mall’s move into “more experiential-type retail shopping.” The mall has added an escape room, he said, in addition to a Build-A-Bear Workshop and a Velocity Esports location that will open in December.
Woodfield was home to the last Sears department store in Illinois until it shuttered in 2021. Its anchors now include Nordstrom, Macy’s and JCPenney. Primark, which opened in October, has taken over the second level of the former Sears store.
According to the Simon’s 2022 annual report, Woodfield’s occupancy rate was close to 95%.
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