Under President Larry Miller, who resumed the top spot in July after leaving the post in 2006 to serve as president of the Portland Trail Blazers, the brand will focus on re-establishing itself as a performance leader, as well as expanding further beyond basketball.
“We’re having incredible growth, but from a brand perspective there are some things we could do better,” Miller said. “The Air Jordan should be the premier shoe in the marketplace every year. And so we want to make sure we’re maintaining that and we’re telling that story every year in a way we need to tell it.”
While Jordan styles enjoy strong sales and dominate the marketplace — they make up 58 percent of all basketball shoe sales, according to SportsOneSource — the brand has ceded its position as the technical and innovation leader to Nike, said SportsOneSource analyst Matt Powell.
“I view Jordan as the fashion brand, the luxury or designer brand of the market,” he said. “[But] the [new Jordan] XX8 is an attempt to regain the position as the performance leader and the innovator leader.”
The $250, stealth-inspired XX8 style, designed by Tinker Hatfield, was unveiled earlier this month at an event in New York and will hit retail in February.
“This is absolutely in the right direction,” he said. “One of the things we want to do is lead the market. We want to do the unexpected and do things that make people say either ‘I love that’ or ‘I hate that,’ and this shoe definitely does that.”
Going forward, Miller added, shoes like the XX8 will put a premium on technology. “One of the benefits we have as the Jordan brand is we have access to Nike’s major technology engine, and we want to take advantage of that. But we also want to make sure there are opportunities for technologies that are specific to Jordan,” he said.
Miller said he aims to have a constant pipeline of newness at Jordan, which does 40 percent of its business in retro product, according to SportsOneSource.
For their part, retailers were upbeat about Miller’s return. “We’re really excited about the Jordan brand, which is having a bit of a resurgence, and Larry is a big plus. He brings a new energy, along with a lot of experience, to a very important brand in the athletic market,” said Ken Hicks, chairman, president and CEO of New York-based Foot Locker Inc.
“[Jordan] has been doing a great job over the years, and having [Miller] come back with his experience and his connection to elite athletes and that world continues to make him the right guy,” added Sam Sato, president and chief merchandising officer at Indianapolis-based Finish Line Inc.
Looking ahead, Miller hinted the brand could expand its presence outside of basketball.