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Nov 14, 2016

Sneakernomics: Fast is the New Normal

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Everything seems faster today. Change is happening more quickly than ever, and nowhere is this need for speed more evident than in the sports industry. Let’s examine the impact.

One of the greatest weaknesses in the sports industry is speed-to-market. The industry is using the same business model that Phil Knight created 40 years ago. Products still take more than a year to move from concept to retail. Prototyping and sampling are time consuming and expensive. Goods spend months on boats from Asia.

But with some manufacturing breakthroughs, speed-to-market is improving. 3D printing has improved the time it takes to make prototypes and changes can be implemented quickly. Someday soon, 3D printing can actually be a part of the manufacturing process.

Brands are also taking labor steps (and therefore time) out of the manufacturing process. The Nike FlyKnit and Adidas Primeknit processes are great examples. The single-knitted upper is much simpler (and more sustainable) than traditional manufacturing techniques.

Brands are also starting to produce shoes on U.S. soil again. Under Armour has already sold shoes made here; Adidas announced its speed factory in Atlanta; and Reebok is doing some amazing work in their Liquid Factory. We can expect Nike to enter this arena soon.

When we look at the consumer/brand interface, we also see that speed has had an impact. Ordering online, especially on your smartphone, used to be a tedious and failure ridden process. Now that many retailers and brands have adopted a “mobile-first” strategy, shopping on your phone has never been easier.

Order delivery speed has also increased. “Free both ways” is the price of admission today. Amazon continues to find ways to get products to people faster. Companies that hope to compete must respond with quicker and frictionless delivery.

Last but not least, the speed of fashion change has also stepped up. We used to talk about fashion trends in the sports industry lasting decades. The 70’s was the running decade and the 80’s the basketball decade. Then we saw timelines begin to shrink to 5-8 years. The recent crash of the ‘performance basketball as fashion’ market proved that that trend lasted only three years. The speed of change is accelerating in the world of fashion.

Brands and retailers that embrace this increased velocity will succeed. Those that don’t will fail.


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SFIA Virtual Conference

Presenter: Matt Powell, Senior Industry Advisor – U.S. Sports
Presentation Title: Best Practices for Brands & Retail in the Current Environment
Date and Time: Thursday, September 24 at 12:05 p.m.
Location: Virtual
Description: Matt Powell hosts an interactive discussion on marketplace trends and what brands and retailers can do to win post-pandemic. Matt, a well-known and often quoted expert in the sports industry, will be presenting the trends and forces shaping our industry, its response to COVID-19, and its future. Matt will assess the industry across various categories, discuss the forces impacting manufacturers, retailers and consumers, and provide his predictions for the coming year. Drawing upon NPD's sales tracking data, his 40+ years in the industry, and insights from what has been successful in other industries NPD tracks, Matt will focus on best practices and what manufacturers and retailers can do to thrive in today’s rapidly changing marketplace.

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Tagged: Apparel , Sports , Footwear


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