Johnson took the stage at the FN Summit in New York on Monday for a conversation with Footwear News managing editor Neil Weilheimer. The CEO addressed a range of topics including competition, basketball slowdown chatter and the impact of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry on shoe sales.
Read on for Johnson’s candid take on several of the athletic industry’s hottest topics.
On the overlap of fashion athletic and casual athletic trends:
“The lines between fashion athletic and casual athletic are certainly becoming blurred … The consumer decides what the end use of a product is — whether they decide to play basketball in the shoes, run in them or kick a soccer ball in them. In the end, they’re determining what’s cool for them.”
On hot trends:
“[One trend is] the modern comfort of running. A few styles [driving this] are the Nike Huarache’s; some products from Adidas [such as] the Boost midsoles and the NMD product; and some great casual running product from New Balance — the 574’s continue to have a great history with us. Court shoes are also very cool right now — although a lot has been written about the end of basketball, our consumer still loves basketball.”
On the new consumer:
“The consumer is moving really fast, and the athletic side of the house does not move as quickly as we should, but one of the advantages that we have at Foot Locker is that we’re global and we can see trends that are happening. Our guys in Western Europe saw the Adidas movement 18 months ago, so we’ve been able to take advantage of that.”
On whether celebrities significantly drive revenues or simply create hype:
“It’s a little bit of both. Celebrities — performers, musicians, athletes — drive both sales and excitement at Foot Locker. Having Yeezy involved with sneakers now certainly drives some excitement in athletic. A lot of our vendors like to have to have athletes wear their brands. The belief is that there is some sort of halo effect from that. The best example is probably the Roshe by Nike several years ago. They had been on the market for eight to 12 months, and suddenly LeBron James wears them on ‘Jimmy Kimmel [Live!],’ and they became the shoe to have.”
Steph Curry’s impact on basketball sales:
“He’s a two-time MVP, and [the Warriors] have been playing well in the [NBA] Finals. He helps drives product because he is a fresh face. Part of it is also having a new brand involved in basketball as well. Under Armour has made some strides with their basketball product [and] having a two-time MVP as the face of their basketball brand is important. But the other side also has some great partners in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and they’re important in trying to sell basketball product as well.”