This Brand Wants to Prove High-End Sneakers Don’t Have to Be Expensive

New York-based SNKR Project is proving you don’t have to break the bank to buy luxury sneakers.

High-end labels such as Balenciaga and Gucci have been hitting the market with styles that cost a whopping $700 to $1,500. With that, SNKR Project discovered an unexploited opportunity that became the company’s market niche. “There were no luxury sneaker designs at a more attainable price point,” said co-founder Janelle Nga.

Since 2016, the brand has delivered silhouettes with upscale aesthetics without deviating from a $75–$150 price range. This formula has attracted retail standouts.

SNKR Project is sold in high-end department stores such as Bloomingdale’s and larger independent retail chains, including Dr. Jay’s and City Gear. The approach has also helped this company attract $2.5 million in sales over three years, with a target of $5 million by the end of 2020.

The growth, however, hasn’t come without challenges. Its wholesale business outweighs e-commerce, which accounts for 20% of sales. Although the founders have no precise target, they want to grow the online percentage of the business exponentially. To support this effort, the brand is approaching its first funding round, which will be used for marketing and for promoting e-commerce products. It is seeking private investors before year’s end.

In addition, the company is working to mitigate the impact looming tariffs could have on business, given that SNKR Project manufactures its products in China.

“We’re trying to work with our factories to decrease costs so we [can] split it. We’re trying not to pass on [increases],” SNKR Project co-founder Marc Scepi said. “But to stay healthy, we have to have a certain margin. If we don’t, we’re hurting ourselves.

“[This] challenges us to become even more strategic with our development and production — [to find] creative ways to help minimize costs. We are also looking [to manufacture] outside of China,” Nga said. In the meantime, SNKR Project is banking on key styles to keep the momentum going.

For spring ’20, the company will rely on updates to its popular Rodeo franchise and a new trail-inspired style to fuel its men’s business. The brand will also look to capitalize on its biggest opportunity: the label’s first full range of women’s footwear, led by the Rodeo 2.5 and Madison 2.0 silhouettes.

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