When the Air Jordan 3 “Cool Grey” lands today on the SNKRS app, collectors who are unable to buy a pair will inevitably turn to Twitter with their frustrations. In recent months, the complaints have grown louder and more frequent.
Some have grown tired of the experience altogether.
“I always explore other options first. SNKRS is a last-ditch effort, but I go into it knowing I have about the same odds as the [New York] Knicks have of winning a title,” said Mitch Jacobs, a former social media content coordinator at StockX who now performs a similar role at Twitch.
And Jacobs is not alone in having apprehension about the app.
“When I start thinking about copping a specific Nike sneaker, I do not always think SNKRS app first. I always check out the stores that will get the sneaker,” explained Damaries Negron, a noteworthy collector who goes by the name @KickItWitDD on Instagram. “I have a better chance on a in store raffle than on SNKRS app. If I do not win a store raffle, then the SNKRS app is my final resource.”
However, not everyone has sworn off the app. While he admitted to missing out on an estimated 98% of all SNKRS launches — with a losing streak of 11 months and 14 days — sneaker influencer and content creator Henry Francois said he hasn’t given up all hope just yet.
“As frustrating as it is to take L after L on that app, it doesn’t dissuade me from attempting because it literally doesn’t cost me anything but a few moments of heartache,” Francois said.
Despite the mounting angst, Matt Powell, senior sports industry adviser for The NPD Group Inc., would argue the experience is not much different than what Nike has done successfully for a long time.
“The model has always been one of scarcity. Whether you had to line up on a Saturday morning — or even Friday night — to wait outside of a store to get a shoe Saturday morning, or if you had to punch in as quick as you can to get on the app, the concepts are really the same. This has really worked for the brand for decades,” Powell explained.
And Marc Beckman, founder and CEO of advertising agency DMA United, believes the discussion — whether it’s about voicing frustrations or celebrating wins — actually plays into Nike’s favor.
“This formula of supply and demand has been working to establish a jewel in the crown position of some of Nike’s products. The issue isn’t about customer satisfaction, but rather a marketing perception tactic to enhance consumer demand,” Beckman said. “Nike’s sneakers become more coveted by its fanbase when some drops are simply unattainable. It’s just an old marketer’s trick fueled by new technology.”
Because the scarcity model has proven to be a financial success for the company, Powell believes there isn’t much incentive for Nike to change how it delivers limited releases for any of its banners.
“It’s important to remember that Jordan alone is a $3 billion business and it was built on scarcity. It’s not like they have a little cottage industry here that they’re trying to preserve. This is a massive business,” Powell said. “It’s bigger than most brands that are in the athletic space.”
He continued, “Yes, you could argue they could be doing more, but they’re doing a lot of business — and it’s very profitable. To sell out of a shoe in minutes, this is a highly profitable product.”
What’s more, given the level of product offered, the SNKRS app is the only place to shop for some.
“There are fewer places today to buy these shoes at the manufacturer’s suggested price,” Powell said. “If you say, ‘I’m going to get this shoe and flip it’ or ‘I absolutely have to have the shoe,’ you don’t have a lot of choices to go elsewhere. Do you sit out for a couple of rounds [on SNKRS] because you missed out and you’re angry? Maybe. But I don’t I don’t think it permanently drives customers away.”
Although Jacobs now lives in a major city with several boutiques, he recognizes this isn’t the case for most.
“I’m in L.A., so I always start with the local spots which are thankfully aplenty. Kith, Undefeated, Bodega and DSM are my first choices,” Jacobs said. “Growing up in South Bend, Ind., my only option was Niketown Chicago for big releases — about a two-hour drive. I would hate to be in that situation now.”
SNKRS also offers a convenience factor that most of today’s collectors find appealing, regardless of the outcome.
“I’d much rather take an L from the comfort of my own home rather than lining up and taking an L, especially in the midsts of a pandemic,” Francois said. Also, I’m sure Nike is aware of how myself and sneakerheads my age and up feel about having to deal with these draws. They’re also aware of the fact most of us will keep trying, so that’s why nothing has changed despite the complaints over the years.”
Although missing out on SNKRS has caused frustration, actually landing a pair on the app has added to the excitement of the purchase.
“Picture [Michael] Jordan hitting ‘The Shot’ over Craig Ehlo. Seriously, I’ve almost thrown my shoulder out fist pumping and celebrating some of these few and far between wins,” Francois said.
Negron experienced a similar feeling, specifically with a coveted Off-White collab.
“When they did the exclusive access for women’s-exclusive Off-White 4’s, I logged in a minute late and was still able to cop. I jumped and screamed because something like this never happens,” Negron said. “I wish I can have that same moment again. When I won that sneaker I felt for once that finally they noticed I exist and I really want that sneaker. I wear that sneaker with pride.”
The app might be polarizing, but Powell believes Nike could evolve SNKRS to quell most user frustrations.
“Instead of letting it be a free for all where people come on at 10 a.m. on a certain date to get a shoe, maybe do it by invitation. Go to loyal customers who haven’t won and send an email saying, ‘You have one hour, here’s a special code, you can get your shoe’ and give your best customers the opportunity to get product,” Powell said. “I absolutely could see logically and functionally how that could happen, and now you make the customer even more loyal and create a whole different paradigm that isn’t this frantic scramble.”