Skip to main content
BoF Logo

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.

The Category Where Nike Is Racing to Catch Up

The world’s biggest footwear brand has struggled to fend off competition in the fast-growing running category. Earnings this week provide an opportunity to show progress.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 06: Desiree Linden of the United States competes in the Women's Professional Division of the TCS New York City Marathon on November 06, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
The world’s biggest footwear brand has struggled to fend off competition in the fast-growing running category. Earnings this week provide an opportunity to show progress. (Getty Images)
BoF PROFESSIONAL

Nike operates on a scale where it sometimes seems like it doesn’t have any true rivals. That’s certainly accurate in some categories, such as basketball, where it owns the two most popular brands, and lifestyle shoes that are more for fashion than the gym. The brand can easily outspend competitors when it comes to marketing, whether it’s signing athletes as ambassadors or sponsoring teams and events.

But the footwear giant is less of a force in a category that’s been driving growth in sneaker sales in recent years: running. And that’s starting to become a problem. On and Hoka seemingly came out of nowhere a few years ago and now sell billions of dollars in running shoes between them. Salomon isn’t far behind; owner, Amer Sports, is planning an initial public offering and targeting €1 billion ($1.1 billion) in sales for the trail-running brand.

Investors certainly believe the future belongs to runner-led brands: shares of Hoka-owner Deckers and On Holding are up more than 70 percent this year, while Nike’s stock has risen a scant 2 percent (other factors have weighed on Nike shares, including uneven demand in China and weakness in wholesale).

A major challenge for Nike is that where brand is the differentiating factor in its strongest categories, logo and hype can play second fiddle to performance for even casual runners. It’s no coincidence that On, Hoka and Salomon shoes feature unusual design elements that are said to provide a faster, more comfortable run, whether you’re racing competitively or out for a casual weekend jog. On’s “CloudTec” cushioning and Hoka’s odd silhouette stick in consumers’ brains just as Michael Jordan did with Air Jordans nearly 40 years ago.

ADVERTISEMENT

Nike knows it has its work cut out for it, telling investors in March it would renew its focus on running shoes by paring unpopular lines and building an innovation pipeline. In a September update, executives flagged strong growth in trail and performance running, while describing their pitch to the “everyday” runner, the biggest segment of this market, as a work in progress.

The company’s next chance to show progress will come when it reports its fiscal second-quarter results on Thursday.

The Week Ahead will be on hiatus for the holidays, returning on Jan. 7. In the meantime, send tips, suggestions, complaints and compliments to brian.baskin@businessoffashion.com.

© 2024 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions

More from Retail
Analysis and advice from the front lines of the retail transformation.

Why Esprit’s Ambitious Rebrand Fell Short

The company is in talks with potential investors after filing for insolvency in Europe and closing its US stores. Insiders say efforts to restore the brand to its 1980s heyday clashed with its owners’ desire to quickly juice sales in order to attract a buyer.


How Adidas Sambas Took Over the World

The humble trainer, once the reserve of football fans, Britpop kids and the odd skateboarder, has become as ubiquitous as battered Converse All Stars in the 00s indie sleaze years.


view more

Subscribe to the BoF Daily Digest

The essential daily round-up of fashion news, analysis, and breaking news alerts.

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.
CONNECT WITH US ON
The Business of Beauty Global Awards - Deadline 30 April 2024
© 2024 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Cookie Policy and Accessibility Statement.
The Business of Beauty Global Awards - Deadline 30 April 2024