Will Consumers Shell Out $315 For Sneakers?

Nike is going to see just how high retail prices can jump this fall, particularly when it releases the LeBron X, a shoe with sensors that measure how high its wearers can leap, for a reported $315 at retail, The Wall Street Journal’s Shelly Banjo reports. The increase “may test even the most dedicated Nike fans,” including one Banjo interviews who is organizing a social media protest over “crazy excessive” prices.

Overall, Nike’s prices will rise 5% to 10% in response to higher raw materials and shipping costs and narrower margins of late. It’s not alone. Basketball shoe prices were up 9.4% compared with a year before as of June, according to NPD Group. Soccer cleats were up 15.5%; running shoes rose 5.5%.

In a separate story, Banjo reveals that Nike hopes to curtail the violence that has marred the release of some of it shoes by banning its retailers from “displaying photos or other descriptions of new products ahead of their launch dates.” Nor can they take presell or take reservations, according to a memo Banjo has seen. The company launched an online sneaker reservation system in April using its Twitter account.



"Retailers should assess what measures are necessary to secure the store and ensure the safety of personnel and consumers," the memo states. Nike had no comment on the memo but acknowledged the change in distribution policy.

Ad Age has a nice piece about Martin Lotti, Nike's global creative director for the Olympics. “An interesting title,” writes Shareen Pathak, “since Nike wasn't an official London 2012 sponsor.” The 37-year-old Lotti, an industrial designer by trade, is the man behind the “beautifully crafted, incandescent kicks that whizzed by on the feet of 400 Olympic athletes” and took the unofficial Neon Green medal for Ambush Marketing.

"Nike's move was really clever,” Kent Grayson, professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, tells Pathak. “They used marketing assets that belonged to them alone, and those assets gave them a pretty unique opportunity to take advantage of the Olympic rules." 

In other Nike news, Gannett’s Pressconnects.com reports that mixed martial arts fighter Jon “Bones” Jones, the UFC light-heavyweight champ, is the first in his sport to sign a sponsorship deal with the company, although it has not been officially announced.

“It’s definitely a magnificent thing -- but not only for me,” Jones tells John Morgan. “It’s huge for me to be the first mixed martial artist to be placed alongside the names of LeBron and Kobe and Michael Jordan. Nike-endorsed athletes are the elite of the elite. But it’s huge for everybody. It lets all the Fortune 500 companies know that it’s OK to invest in MMA.”

CounterKicks blogger John Brilliant, meanwhile, had a momentary exclusive on a peek at the forthcoming Nike Kobe VIII yesterday. “Even before you see it on Kobe,” he crowed. As far as the sneaker goes, “the major technical narrative here is Nike’s introduction of a new Engineered Mesh (EM) footwear construction.” There are also some aesthetic points to be made, such as the placement of the Swoosh.

Dime’s Sean Sweeney picked up the story with Internet speed and, with a tip of the hat to CounterKicks, suggests that the Nike Kobe VIII might be a worthy successor to what it rated as the No. 1 sneaker released during hoops season last year. It may look like a “strictly performance-based shoe” but “coming from the guy who just dropped 68 points in 15 minutes of a charity game, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” No word on the price.

The WSJ’s Banjo, however, reports that even the “venerable” Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star sneaker is not immune to rising prices. It’s up to $50 from $45 a year ago.

Geezer Alert: Read no further if you loathe “when I was a lad” stories. When I was a lad, I used to walk four miles roundtrip to an Army Navy store on Fordham Road in the Bronx to save a couple of bucks on Chucks, which then sold at the astronomical price of $16 in most stores. I can’t recall just how deep the snow was, or how freezing the temperature, but I can assure you that no one was lining up on the sidewalk at midnight. Then again, unlike LeBron, Kobe, Michael and, now, “Bones,” no one knew who the hell Chuck Taylor was.

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