Adidas continued to win over American consumers in 2016. Nike and Jordan Brand dropped coveted classic styles that satisfied devout sneakerheads. Newer labels, such as Brandblack, broke into the market and turned heads with innovative looks.
The year was strong for the athletic lifestyle market, and the forecast for athleisure in 2017 is promising. With a new year here, top boutique retailers throughout the country offered Footwear News an explanation for the brands that are set to have a stellar year. Here’s what the owners, founders and creative directors had to say.
Owner, West NYC
New York City
“Adidas — they are on a roll, and speed to market is one of their competitions biggest challenges. Even if the competition build a better mousetrap 30 days ago, the delivery wouldn’t be for several months, thus allowing Adidas to dominate for the spring at a minimum.”
“From a retail standpoint, the line between athletic lifestyle and casual lifestyle/athleisure has been blurred. Many styles which had been intended and marketed for performance use have actually found better success in the closets of casual wearers. Aside from the current majors, Nike and Adidas, which I do think will both continue to innovate and push the envelope with newer technology respectively, I’m a believer in Brandblack. Having had the opportunity to work closely with their team in 2016, I feel they are ready to take that next step and make noise in the performance arena in 2017.”
California, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington
“I believe Adidas will still have the edge over Nike in 2017. Adidas has established itself as the athletic lifestyle brand over the last two years. The combination of Boost and Primeknit has proven to be the formula to success in the athletic lifestyle space. However, I do see Nike making a big push to close the gap in 2017.”
Creative Director, Concepts
Cambridge, Mass. and New York City
“With Adidas showing no signs of slowing down, it’s a tough call between Nike and Adidas for 2017. I think it’s an exciting time in the lifestyle space. Brands are really stepping up and innovating in new ways, but it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. Definitely tight between Adidas and Nike right now.”
“Adidas has the momentum going into the year, but I think they woke up the sleeping beast that is Nike and that by the end of 2017 they will be very much neck and neck. I do think competition is great for the market, and we will see a great product offering from both companies, but Nike is a juggernaut and they are not used to being number two to anyone. Adidas is doing a good job of mixing up releases and models used, but Nike has a library of models combined with technical know-how that is a tough combination to beat. In our market, I expect Nike to make up a lot of ground this year if they can keep releases off dot-com and into the boutique market. I’m excited for 2017.”
Owner, Packer Shoes
Teaneck and Jersey City, N.J.
“Adidas has made great strides over the past few years, and it has now all come to a head and in some ways (but positive), unchartered territory. We have thankfully had a great partnership for many years and seeing the next iteration of that growth is the most important they have had to face to continue their momentum.
[But] more than just a brand, I think 2017 is going to be very important and telling for our channel of distribution in general. The brands have seen this part of the business grow from its infancy to what it has become now. Product and segmentation have been formulas that have never changed. All of us over the last 15 years that this channel has been in existence have seen the benefits; now is the time to harness all of those learnings, including the brands themselves.”
Founder and Creative Director, Lapstone & Hammer
“I feel this question and specifically the word “strongest” is split into two parts: the perception versus actual numbers.
“Word on the street is clearly pushing Adidas as the brand that is capturing everyone’s attention in what you call athletic lifestyle space. Led by the [Ultra] Boost and Yeezy franchises, the consumer simply cannot get enough of these products. And to Adidas’ credit they are keeping the supply and distribution very tight, which ensures a near sellout with almost every [Ultra] Boost and NMD drop. Yeezy obviously sells out to the pair every release within minutes, but we are seeing resell values drop dramatically, which has a few indications not worth getting into for this discussion.
“There is also the element of surprise that Adidas has going for them. In today’s world of instant gratification and extremely short attention spans, this is very important. With technology advancing the world and effectively making the world ‘smaller,’ there is seemly too much information out there in regards to sneaker culture. But when it comes to Adidas, they keep that info on a shorter leash, and blogs are not getting a hold of images and styles that will be releasing in six to nine months time. Talking about a release that is dropping in May or June may be cool now, but it dilutes the actual product, so that when it drops, people feel as if it is old news. Adidas drops hit the blogs a few weeks before the launch — it drives energy and buzz enough to clear them off shelves seemingly in an instant. Also there is a recent trend with the cool kids to bash Nike and Jordan and praise Adidas as this new innovator. They love to project on social media how Nike is trash and Jordan is dead. The reality of actual sales numbers is quite the opposite.
“Adidas footwear sales may be up 300 percent or something crazy like that, but they are still a small fraction of overall men’s footwear market. Nike and Jordan combined still make up for over 30 percent of this athletic lifestyle space. Adidas is maybe creeping up to about 5 percent of the market share. As is the current perception, Nike and Jordan are slowing down and Adidas is kicking [butt]. In terms of year-over-year comps, that is true, but when it comes to actual dollar amounts in gross sales figures, Nike is simply the undisputed champion of this market. Their biggest growth has been in direct-to-consumer, which is a huge margin driver for them but has been hurting the independent retailer. However, in today’s athletic lifestyle space, it is possible to survive as a retailer without a Nike account — if you have Adidas – whereas a year or two ago that would not have seemed possible.
“At the end of the day for 2017 in the athletic lifestyle space, Adidas will capture the hype no doubt. But when it comes to actual sales figures and dollars being spent on the street, no brand can even come close to Nike.”