Back-to-School Survey: Nike Consumers ‘Trade Down’ Within the Brand, Opting for More Affordable Styles This Season

Consumers want to buy Nike — even if they have to opt for cheaper styles.

In its 15th annual Back-to-School 2022 athletic footwear survey, Stifel analysts found that Nike was the most popular athletic footwear brand this back-to-school season. Analysts also noted a tendency for consumers to “trade down” to cheaper products within the Nike brand, such as Nike Court styles (which retail for around $70) that mimic the look of the more expensive Air Force 1s ($110) and Jordan 1s (more than $100). This trend represents a consumer that is adapting to a highly inflationary environment while maintaining a commitment to the Nike logo and style.

“Consumers remain brand loyal and the budget conscious appear willing to substitute within brand,” Stifel analysts noted.

For this report, Stifel checked in with about 110 athletic footwear stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Academy Sports, Foot Locker, Finish Line, Champs and Hibbett Sports between Aug. 12 and Aug. 17 and asked about the most popular footwear styles and brands this back-to-school season. The survey found that 92% of retailers cited shoes from the Nike brand as the most popular this season, up from 87% in February.

The Nike Air Force 1 remained the most popular shoe for men and women for Stifel’s seventh consecutive semi-annual check-in, despite a $10 increase in price from February 2022 and a $20 increase from last year. Analysts noted that the all-white shoe could be suitable for a variety of school dress-codes requiring neutral footwear.

Other popular styles included the Jordan Retro 1 and Nike Blazer silhouettes, with the Nike Air Max and VaporMax gaining momentum as well.

Overall, Nike shoes made up seven of the top 10 most commonly referenced popular styles among the surveyed retailers, suggesting a persisting dominance of the athletic brand in wholesale channels despite a shift towards DTC. The data was similar in 2021, when 93% of retailers cited Nike as its most popular brand. The popularity of Adidas and New Balance declined while Converse and Hey Dude gained momentum.

Analysts noted that Nike is still a strong seller at Foot Locker, even after the retailer shared in February that the amount of Nike product in its stores would be significantly less than before. According to Stifel, 98% of Foot Locker stores referenced Nike as its most popular brand, up from 84% in February.

In regards to general merchandise availability, Stifel noted that stores appear to have strong levels of inventory and in-stocks, though some retailers reported being short staffed.

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