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Skechers USA Growth Shows that the Term “Athleisure” is Flawed

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SKX stock looks poised to have an impressive 2018 and makes Skechers one of the best picks in the athletic gear space right now.

Source: Skechers USA Inc Is Killing It in Athleisure and Just Getting Started

The success of Skechers in the last year has led a major analyst to report that, “it’s a sportswear world…performance brands beware” because athleisure is here to stay. Here is the issue with that statement and as I’ve reported on for the last few years, athleisure is a misnomer. It’s a faulty label that blurs the lines for the purpose of creating data sets to sell to brands in order to predict what will sell well in the following quarters. The problem is everyone is using the term athleisure without any clearly defined parameters. That’s because “athleisure” is a catch all so certain analyst can be right no matter what they present as fact.

If you ask 10 different people to define the term, you’re sure to get ten different variations on what is athleisure. Those in footwear for an extended time know that the first brand to label and present themselves as “athleisure/casual athletic” was CLAE. The brand had decided to shift from skate into a casual shoe with an athletic outsole. It was a similar move taken by Cole Haan with their Lunargrand and the use of Nike’s Lunarlon Technology in a dress shoe. Up until this point no one really used the term athleisure. Along the way over the last ten years the term was appropriated  by marketing entities and larger brands to describe gear and footwear that could be worn for both athletic and casual purposes. Here is the thing, SINCE NIKE FIRST PUT THE NIKE CORTEZ ON FARRAH FAWCETT, SPORTS SHOES HAVE BEEN CASUAL ATHLETIC. I am really screaming this. The moment that Jeff Johnson pulled the foam from a flip flop and placed it and sandwiched it between the upper and outsole of a running shoe, the market began to change. When Farrah wore the shoe on Charlie’s Angels and in photo shoots, the world shifted. In all honesty the moment the punk movement adopted the Chuck Taylor as the shoe of counter culture things changed. The more you begin to look at the history of sneakers the lines become more and more blurred. Especially when Hip-Hop came along in the 70s and B-Boys chose the Puma Clyde, and then adidas, as the perfect B-Boy shoe.

Sorry about that… When the larger brands began to see a marketing opportunity “Casual athletic” was tossed out of the door for the catch all “athleisure”.  The definition of the term still isn’t clear and that’s why Skechers’ recent growth as a symbol of where the market is headed, and that performance brands should “beware” or take notice, is flawed.

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If you take one second to visit Skechers website the 14 images on the homepage of the site can be broken down like this:

  • Shoes in a splash page image above the fold
  • individual shoe pictures for click through
  • marketing pictures

If you exclude the splash page, and then exclude the click through images (5 total, all with athletic outsoles), 7 of the 8 images are of kids, men and women in performance/athletic shots.

If you take the same time and visit all of Skechers’ platforms the direction of Skechers becomes clear. Skechers has decided to dwell in the affordable performance area. Are they creating casual shoes? Of course, but the majority of the marketing and footwear being generated by the brand is being marketed specifically towards performance with lifestyle purposes… or Casual Athletic, or athleisure.

As a matter of fact since last year Skechers has created over 50 videos: Every one of those videos had some element of sport/performance. I’ve seen the same question being posed over and over again about why brands are continuing to create performance footwear. I’ve made this statement over and over and I’d like to not write this again, but I know I will, “Sneakers have always been about performance. The performance qualities eventually become casual. Without constant innovation and updates on the technical side, the casual footwear market would not exist.” Athleisure as the title of a segment of footwear and sportswear is flawed and the constant use by media and analysts to establish that it’s “growing” overlooks the fact that attire is becoming less formal and people are always looking for more comfortable apparel. The company that makes the most comfortable item, at the best price has the best chance of growth.

If you’re touting Skechers’ growth as proof of the decline of performance, you’re completely overlooking the fact that Skechers’ shoes are being used and were created as a low cost performance option and as a low cost casual option.