It’s been more than a decade since NBA great Michael Jordan retired, but Nike’s Jordan brand continues to be on fire.
“It’s amazing how Michael Jordan retired long ago, yet he’s as hot as ever,” said Mitchell Modell, CEO of Modell’s Sporting Goods.
Overall, basketball is booming, according to Matt Powell, sports industry analyst for NPD Group.
“We’ve built on the success of retro and have some incredible marquee player products,” said Powell, who noted that basketball looks have replaced running styles as the hot seller. “It’s really a fashion trend. Kids were looking for something new. ”
During the holiday season — the last six weeks of 2014 — basketball sales in national accounts were up 18.4 percent over the same period last year, according to a new report from Sterne Agee.
In the same period, Brand Jordan sales in national accounts increased 41 percent, thanks to the Air Jordan 11 Retro Legend Blue launch on Dec. 20. Legend Blue sales have hit $149 million since the shoe’s debut, tripling the sales of the Air Jordan 11 Retro Gamma launch from Christmas 2013. “The December [launches] have consistently been the biggest of the year, every year,” said Sam Poser, an analyst at Sterne Agee.
Richard Johnson, president and CEO of Foot Locker Inc., noted that “Nike and Brand Jordan both have been delivering great product, [but] we’re also seeing success in Under Armour performance basketball and Adidas performance basketball.” Johnson added that both Adidas’Derrick Rose shoe and Under Armour’s Clutch Fit sell well.
The market is also feeling the impact of powerful Asian companies, such as Li Ning, which produces Dwyane Wade basketball shoes.
Still, Nike and Jordan account for 90 percent of the category. “Basketball continues to be an important category for us. This growth has been fueled primarily by Nike, which represents a meaningful percentage of our overall basketball business,” said Finish Line Inc. SVP and GMM Jeff Morrell.
Also fueling the market are styles from marquee players. Sneakers from Kevin Durant, Lebron James and Kobe Bryant do well for Nike, Poser said. “Lebron clearly is the strongest athlete outside of Jordan, and his is still the single biggest endorsed shoe in the market place,” said Powell.
Powell said Carmelo Anthony’s Jordan Melo sales also have been solid, but “he’s not in the same league as Lebron or KD.”
And on Dec. 24, Nike launched the Kyrie One with Cleveland Cavaliers player Kyrie Irving.
With big launches lined up, experts predict that growth in the segment will continue into 2015.
One thing to watch, according to industry observers, is the Jan. 24 relaunch of the Air Jordan 7 French Blue and Under Armour’s Feb. 13 launch of the Curry One, a collabo- ration with Golden State Warriors player Stephen Curry.
There will also be big launches around the February All-Star Game, March Madness and the NBA Playoffs, Poser said.
“What it comes down to is, if the product’s great, you’re going to buy it.” Another development could be greater movement into other distribution channels. “We haven’t seen a broader impact [on that score] with basketball yet,” Powell said. At least one department store is getting in on the action.
This month, Bloomingdale’s opened an NBA shop online and in select locations to cel- ebrate the 64th NBA All-Star Game. Basketball-inspired shops, including fashion and performance sneakers, plus style videos with Houston Rockets player James Harden are some of the highlights.