How do retailers effectively collaborate with Nike in 2021? Snipes has one compelling answer.
The European sneaker retailer — which has been building its business in the U.S. since its 2019 acquisition of Kicks USA — opened its newest location in Brooklyn last week, in the Crown Heights neighborhood. The 5,000-square-foot unit, located at 1117 Eastern Parkway in a space formally occupied by Modell’s and before that a bank, features a temporary Dunk Museum celebrating the 35th anniversary of the iconic style. The Dunk took home FN’s 2020 Shoe of the Year honor and continues to dominate sneaker culture.
Snipes joined forces with Project Blitz, a Los Angeles-based sneaker agency, to curate the selection of 35 Dunks featured in the museum, which is open through February 18. Kicks on display (nothing is for sale) include collaborations with Travis Scott and Ben & Jerry’s, among others. “The Dunk is a phenomenal legacy story and we wanted to tell it. We pitched it to Nike and they loved it. We brought our version of modern art to the neighborhood,” said Adam Herstig, VP of marketing for Snipes.
Snipes clearly understands that next-level retail partnerships like the Dunk initiative are key in the pandemic era, particularly when it comes to Nike. It’s well known that the athletic giant has been laser-focused on rapid growth within its digital business and company-owned stores. At the same time, it’s been dropping some longtime retail accounts.
In a statement provided to FN last year, Nike said it was working with “a smaller number of strategic partners who share our vision to create a consistent, connected and modern shopping experience.”
Snipes aims to build communities of sneaker lovers in neighborhoods, and its approach mirrors a strategy embraced by both Nike and Foot Locker with their community-centric stores. The pandemic has only intensified the focus on the local consumer as tourism has declined significantly in all markets, particularly in big cities. In New York specifically, Nike Unite opened in Brooklyn in 2020, and the brand remodeled two Manhattan stores late last year, on the Upper East Side and in the Flatiron neighborhood.
For its part, Snipes has also been settling in at its Barclay Center location, which it opened in part to capitalize on a partnership with the Brooklyn Nets. It also operates stores in Queens and the Bronx. So far, it isn’t focused on Manhattan, which is somewhat unconventional, but it’s a smart approach right now amid steep traffic declines in core areas of the city.
Overall, Snipes now counts about 100 stores in the U.S. market — and the retailer, which also stocks Adidas, New Balance, Converse, Puma and other big brands, is forging ahead with expansion despite pandemic hurdles.
“We noticed that there was still such demand out there, and our numbers started to reflect that,” said Herstig. “We doubled down because e-commerce was on fire and our store business was on fire, even at 25% capacity. We got a hold of new leases and pushed to open stores.”
Flexibility has been critical to Snipes’ early success. “As other folks close, there is potentially a supply shortage. Maybe you cant find as much as you used to, and there’s less saturation,” Herstig noted, adding that the impact of the first stimulus check clearly benefited Snipes. But some shopping patterns aren’t as easy to explain.
“We’re scratching our heads at some consumer behaviors. We were selling fleece and boots in the middle of the summer,” Herstig. “Everyone wants to be a little more comfortable.”