As you might expect, the boss of one of the world’s most famous shoe retailers has a lot of sneakers in his wardrobe.
Some Asics Kayanos or On’s ‘Clouds’ shoes for jogging, others for going to work… And even a special pair for funerals. “I am convinced that you can wear sneakers every day,” Richard Johnson, the chairman and chief executive of Foot Locker, told 9breaking News.
“I have my wedding sneakers, my christening sneakers — I even have my funeral sneakers because I’m getting older and you need to have the right shoes.”
He’s also not worried about people leaving their sweatpants and sneakers aside when they go to school or the office. The demand for cozy clothes during the pandemic has taken the “casualization” of fashion to a whole new level, he says.
“If people go back I think their wardrobe will change, their uniform will change a little bit.” But I don’t think it will go back to ‘more formal’. I think it will still be quite casual, it will be a new level of business casual in my opinion.
The company has seen sales of fleeces, trainers and t-shirts rise as consumers have opted for comfort during the lockdown In the three months to May 1, like-for-like sales, which offset the effect of new store openings, increased by 80.3%, while online revenues also increased by 43%, although that started back slightly “Our customer is truly born with a digital device in hand,” he says.
“Before the pandemic, about 15% of them chose to buy through the app or online. At the height of the pandemic it was about 35% to 40% because we always had stores open somewhere.
“But when they opened, we saw it go back to the mid-twenties… Our customer likes to explore the stores, they like to take the shoes out of the box – and then they’re gone. and over. It’s a beautiful balance.” But Foot Locker, which has 3,000 stores worldwide, and brands like Champs and Eastbay, recently weighed in on how many stores it wants.
In May, it decided to close the Footaction chain in the US, due to too much overlap with Foot Locker’s customer base, without bringing in as many sales. Most of the 231 Footaction stores will be closed, although some will be converted into Foot Locker stores. Mr Johnson said:
“It’s never an easy decision to close a banner, but we’re trying to move people across the banners,” seeking positions elsewhere for sales assistants and those in headquarters.
Catherine Shuttleworth, retail analyst and chief executive at retail marketing firm Savvy, said the New York-based athletic chain had delivered a strong performance overall during the pandemic.
“With a customer base that was already online fanatics, they were able to quickly switch from bricks to clicks in lockdown. Together with other players in the market, they have benefited from the continued spending of shoppers – especially on athleisure.
” She added that despite the slowdown in online sales, “with the right brand partners, social strategy and positive attitudes from younger shoppers, the future should be bright.” And demand among “sneakerheads” shows little sign of slowing down.
Some have queued for hours to get their hands on the latest releases from Yeezys or Air Jordans. Many wear them with pride, but others cling to popular sneakers so that they increase in value and can be “flipped” or sold elsewhere online for a profit.
Prices sometimes run above thousands of dollars. Foot Locker invested $100 million (£77.1 million) in 2019 in a resale site called Goat, which also sells rare releases from years ago, but Mr Johnson describes resale as a “difficult” ecosystem.
“The sneaker market is really driven by scarcity – that’s what ultimately fuels the secondary market,” he said. “So when people are passionate about that particular sneaker, there’s always someone who wants it who doesn’t have it.
Pricing and value are in the eye of the beholder.” And as the economy picks up again, Mr. Johnson is confident that consumers will keep an eye out for the latest releases.
“[Customers] can go to festivals, they can go to football games, they can do a lot of different things. But they will always want to look good, which is why I really believe the sneaker heat just keeps coming out.”