Sneakerheads or Science? The Footlocker Billion Dollar Formula!


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The mens athletic footwear industry is experiencing a period of strong and rapid growth as men expand their wardrobe with a variety of colors to satisfy the trendiest metrosexual, and collectors scoop up limited edition designs and “retro” styles for personal storage or resale on eBay. But how did we get here?

Footlocker shared its latest business results this past May by announcing to shareholders that sales improved 14% to $1.87 billion, bolstered by a same store sales jump of 7.6% (a huge metric in retail). Is this just a bunch of Sneakerheads gobbling up all of the goods? NO! It is retail science at its finest.

Let’s take a look at some of the strategies used by Footlocker to glamorize and accessorize their in-store experience and products. The most noticeable tactic is what I call the “Museum-ication” of the product. When you walk into a Footlocker store you are immediately greeted by new styles under glass. Think of the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian, under glass and highlighted by just the right lighting. That’s what we’ve got here. Talk about creating value. It’s a beautiful way to celebrate the product’s excitement factor, whether it be a brand new product or a limited edition product.

Glamorous Footwear

The next tactic is what I call “The Mannequin.” Not all men have the patience or skill to piece together a trendy outfit featuring a theme from head to toe. Footlocker aims to make this process a lot easier for all customers. A gentlemen looking to spruce up his gear can walk into Footlocker and simply buy “The Mannequin”, a preassembled option of outfits centered around a specific sneaker’s design cues. The boost in sales results isn’t just due to a handful of t-shirts, as they have a TON of clothing options. These options are brand specific, so the Nike shirt matches the exact pattern in the Nike shoe. It’s a fashion alley-lop that results in fast-break cross-sell momentum.

Matching Display

The final tactic I will highlight is what I call “Showtime.” This is the use of lighting to create more excitement and value. Typically, when I think of lighting techniques I think top-down, from the ceiling. But this technique leverages the reverse, bottom-up lighting, to make the product pop off of the shelves. The shelf is broadway and the lighting celebrates the star of the show: a $180 pair of Air Jordans!

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When the mens athletic footwear industry makes headlines about Christmas product releases that garner long lines sleeping outside of mall entries, I sense competitors in the footwear industry roll their eyes at the obsessive and unexplainable phenomenon of the Sneakerhead. The evolution of the Sneakerhead consumer is one born from the science of creating value and demand. Regardless of targeted demographics and product niches, take a look at what some of the competitors are doing and you’ll see and sense a major difference in environments. The picture below is from The Walking Company store in the same mall as my Footlocker photos. It’s a different product and a different vibe. It wouldn’t make sense to transfer every Footlocker product display tactic to The Walking Company’s floor, but some of these ideas display a creative effort that clearly does not exist outside of Footlocker. Bravo! The sneakerhead seems more and more like a well-timed creation.

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