SBD/May 9, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Demand For Barefoot Shoes Cools Considerably, With Sales Down 47% This Year

Minimalist footwear last year was the only major category to shrink
Italy-based footwear brand Vibram's FiveFingers shoe that "had weekend warriors ditching sneakers to jog with little or nothing on their feet ... is falling out of favor," as sales of "so-called minimalist shoes with ultra-thin soles have plunged 47% so far this year, even as total running-shoe sales have risen slightly," according to SportsOneSource data cited by Sara Germano of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Data shows that minimalist footwear last year "was the only major category to shrink," dropping by a third to $220M, while the running-shoe market as a whole "grew slightly" to $7B. Mainstream brands that "got into" the minimalist footwear game include adidas, New Balance and Fila. Experts said that one reason for the downturn is the concept was "pitched as a panacea for common injuries from knee pain to shin splints," but the results "didn't meet expectations." Not all minimalist models "are expiring, especially the ones that are evolving." SportsOneSource analyst Matt Powell said that the Nike Free is "excluded from the minimalist sales totals compiled by SportsOneSource, because the shoe ... appeals as much to the fashionable as the athletic" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/9).

EARNING ITS STRIPES: THE FADER's Matthew Schnipper writes a "shift in style that coincided" with the '10 hiring of Creative Dir Dirk Schönberger has made adidas "not only one of the most popular brands on the planet, but one of the coolest." Schönberger has brought adidas "a wealth of diversity, often in the form of high profile collaborations ... that are as pretty as they are profitable." He said adidas "broke all the rules by working with fashion designers on sneakers." Schönberger: "I’m thinking about our collaborators as a virus injected into our company that mutates the company into something else" (THE FADER magazine, April/May '14 issue).
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