In May of this year Footlocker reported on the decline in basketball sales. This trend has continued into the 3rd Quarter with basketball actually killing margins across the board. I have seen first hand the reduction in sales as my online shop was based primarily on Nike Basketball and over the past two years, I’ve seen a 30% drop in sales. Yes, 30%! This is primarily due to poor design and increased prices from Nike. Sales from Under Armour actually were solid when I could get the product. I actually sold UA at above retail pricing on both mens’ and kids’ basketball shoes. This trend has caused the stock market to lose faith in Nike for the first time in 20 years. It’s also caused Nike to adjust its pricing. The LeBron line is being lead by its takedown model the LeBron Solider (retail 130.00) and the KD Signature line has been reduced in price from 180.00 to 150.00. With Kobe’s retirement the brand has also taken his line to its Nike EM pricepoint of 160 with the new Nike Kobe A.D. These things alone will not fix basketball shoe sales, but I do believe that a shift is on the horizon and basketball will become king in the 4th Quarter and this will carry through to the 1st and 2nd Quarter of 2017. The shift will be because of the NBA. Here are my ten reasons why basketball shoe sales are about to improve:
- Kevin Durant vs Russell Westbrook – The NBA may not draw a lot of viewers during the regular season, but when the Warriors play the Thunder, the tv share will definitely be higher than any regular season game that doesn’t feature LeBron. The Jordan 31 (Westbrook’s sig shoe) has already been a surprising shoe for resale and it is getting solid reviews. As far as off the court style it doesn’t cut it, but the increase in Jordan Brand sales are going to increase. Durant’s KD9 is 30 dollars cheaper. While there are still full size runs in stock on NDC, I’ve been selling the shoe consistently above retail in mens and kids. As the season develops and Durant and Westbrook continue to play at a high rate the story line here is so good that it’s advertisement in itself.
- Steph Curry – I’m still waiting on that Under Armour commercial that places the weight of the team on Curry. #Makethatold is almost the one, but the ad isn’t quite there. As Under Armour begins to strategize the marketing for the Curry 3 the shoe will perform well. The Black/Camo version is currently selling above retail and it actually does have some off the court style.Under Armour’s marketing is terrible. They aren’t taking advantage of video marketing at all. They also are failing to expand their endorsers and create a team shoe that is comparable to the Curry. They have easy fixes available but some of the worsts speed in fixing issues I’ve seen. As the smallest of the Big 3 footwear companies they should be a lot more agile.
- Damian Lillard – The Lillard 3 is an absolutely amazing basketball shoe. It has off the court appeal and features Bounce technology and an eye catching design. It helps the D Lillard is making a push to be an MVP candidate and his shoes have a great pricepoint.
- James Harden’s Numbers – If Steve Nash earned MVPs in Dantoni’s system, Harden will garner some of the biggest numbers the league has seen in the last few years. His signature release from adidas is not a strong contender, but in the right colorway that shoe has some of those adidas running qualities that will enable the kick to appeal to buyers. The salmon toe version of the shoe will probably pop.
- LeBron James’ 14 – Nike has royally screwed up LeBron’s shoes for the last 3 years. The guy has a championship and will make a run for MVP and after a bunch of really bad designs, they owe him. It is also not in Nike’s best interest that the takedown version with smaller margins is the shoe he is most identified by now. I expect a return to Zoom Air and I also expect a retro of earlier models to begin appearing this season. The 14 though, I think will capture the essence of the line and its roots and return to a Visible Zoom Air and sturdy construction using classic elements (suede, leather and possibly a strap system like the Soldier 10. Oh, unlike the KD9, on NDC the Soldier is sold out in several styles.
- Kyrie Irving for MVP – LeBron got one for the Land and now he will really defer to his teammate which means that Kyrie could see huge numbers this year. Kyrie’s heroics last season saved the Cavs, this season he won’t be injured, there is better chemistry and he wants to prove that he can be the face of the Cavs and LeBron won’t mind. The Kyrie 3, which won’t launch until All Star Weekend (In New Orleans which was big for Nike a few years back with its NOLA themed All Star releases,) will be a shoe that Nike will want to rival the Curry 3, but I don’t think they will be as risky with the price. I think the shoe may move to 130 per pair, but that is still less than the Curry 3. I also think this year the Kyrie 3 gets some tech added to it (early images are depressing and unless they keep the pricepoint at 120 the Kyrie won’t help). Kyrie is being used in marketing campaigns and he is a marketable player. Some digital ads will prove to be a good thing for the sell of his kicks. Also on NDC two of his recent releases are sold out. Older models are not sitting on the shelves in retail either. After seeing early pics of the 3 though, Nike may want to hold on to the 2 a bit longer.
- Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah aligning with newly signed adidas sig player Kristaps Porzingis creates a trio on the New York Knicks and if they are moderately successful this year adidas will have a field day with the type of marketing they accomplish with that group. While D-Rose’s signature shoe is not very strong, adidas Basketball will benefit overall with the Knicks being more prominent this season. The problem is Rose just beat a rape charge and adidas is being careful. I think as soon as they can, they need a campaign around the big 3 adidas players for the Knicks.
- The Lakers under Luke Walton isn’t really a storyline, but they are a team that will threaten the West and simply having the Lakers back as a marketable team is good for the NBA and it’s good for basketball. Adidas signee Brandon Ingram could contend for Rookie of the Year which is another marketing campaign, but the bigger potential for footwear is if adidas has a return to Basketball is a Brotherhood and they utilize Brandon and his peers who make up a formidable roster of freshman talent for the Three Stripes.
- When you consider the storylines in the Eastern Conference this year the number of potential narratives has to have some effect on the market. D-Wade returning to Miami to compete. Rose and Noah having to play Chicago multiple times. Paul George and the Nike endorsers are already being used in retro ads similar to the Force campaigns of the 80’s. In keeping with the current trend of retro in fashion, the influence of retro is being seen throughout companies like KITH, the footwear will naturally begin to shift back to basketball to compliment the apparel being designed. Then again this is going to benefit retro basketball, but I do believe the styling cues of the footwear being released in the next year will have more tie ins to the retro basketball market. This is being seen in Nike’s current Air Jordan 1/Air Jordan 31 ties ins.
- Nike is leaking photos of its new jerseys that will takeover the NBA next year. These leaks are going to be a good thing for the NBA and more important it will allow basketball to recapture the interest of the footwear buying market. If Under Armour is any indication of how basketball footwear will change then the shift is already starting. I panned their branding on the Curry 3. What I now realize is that while the design is current, the removal of the Under Armour logo from the side of the shoe is a nod to the Air Jordan line in design. The Curry 3 features the SC branding on the heel and the UA logo on the tongue. The shoe can be worn casually because of the clean lines and lack of branding. It’s a first for Under Armour that shows they are preparing for the shift back to basketball. When you look at the Air Jordan line, the first Air Jordan had the Nike Swoosh. The Air Jordan 2 had the word Nike at the heel, and Wings logo on the tonuge, but no Swoosh. The Air Jordan 3 like the Air Jordan 2 featured the Nike branding at the heel and a Jumpman on the tongue. The reason the Jordan Brand line was able to transition into daily wear is because the branding wasn’t as prominent allowing people to wear the shoe without the gaudy logos all over. Under Armour will sell a lot of the Curry line, but they need to begin expanding their marketing of the roster which is the intention based on their Q3 announcements. They need another big name as well.
Overall I think basketball shoes will rebound very soon. Maybe I’m wrong, but if this NBA season is any indication basketball footwear is going to get the assist it sorely needs. What do you think?