Experts Predict: How Much Longer Will Sneakers Be Hot?

For the past five years, the athletic market has been turning out robust sales numbers for the footwear industry.

So at a panel discussion on Tuesday at the FN Platform trade show in Las Vegas, the burning question was: How long will it last?

Neil Schwartz, VP of business development and market insights at SportsOneSource, predicted that the athletic business has at least one more year of strong growth ahead.

Fellow panelist Cliff Sifford, CEO of Shoe Carnival Inc., agreed, noting that the demand for sneakers mirrors today’s casual apparel trends. “The athletic look is here to stay until the apparel changes or until the consumer mindset changes to dress more formally,” he said.

The market experts did point out that there have been shifts within the athletic category. In particular, segments such as basketball, skate and canvas have cooled of late, according to Sifford, while lifestyle and athleisure products remain in demand.

Steve Silver — a partner in the Cleveland-based sneaker boutiques Next and Xhibition, which attract fashion-focused customers — said he has noticed an emerging interest in retro ’90s-inspired chunky runners. And he predicted that brands such as Nike and Adidas, which have a deep archive from that era, will be able to capitalize on the trend.

In regard to the strongest brand performers in the athletic category, the panelists praised Adidas for its remarkable rise in recent years, fueled by must-have product, tech innovation and savvy marketing.

“The brand is cool, and people want to wear the three stripes. You have to give credit to [Adidas North America president] Mark King and his team,” said Sifford.

“The company has put a lot of focus on North America in the last few years. All that infrastructure here is new for them, and it’s helping to drive the business,” he added.

The panelists also cited brand partner Kanye West as a major contributor to the firm’s hip image — at least up to a point. “Adidas’ profile got a big boost from Kanye,” said Schwartz. “But it ain’t Kanye that’s continuing the momentum — it’s Adidas.”

The FN Platform panel was hosted by Susquehanna Financial analyst Sam Poser.

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