Outlook 2015: Shoes — Stepping up the Game
The new shoe showcase features vehicles that perform and look good, too.
By Kent Oswald
The showcase has begun. Television screens worldwide have been offering close-ups and slow-motion replays of tennis shoes grinding, flexing, and squeaking all over the Plexipave surfaces from Down Under. Racquets and strings get most of the credit for players’ ability to hit shots never before seen, but if the shoes are not durable, flexible, supportive, or light enough to enable getting to the right place ball after ball, the mind-boggling hit is never struck. And, since shoes are very much vehicles for both function and fashion, they have to do that while looking just as good when they are standing still.
In many ways, the outlook for the tennis shoe business parallels what can be expected from the pro game in 2015. Everyone has stepped up their game incrementally; the top ranks will include familiar names; prize money and unit sales are expecting a slight increase; and tennis shoes will be making more of a statement both on-court and on the street.
Highlights for the first part of the year will include (all prices are suggested retail):
ADIDAS • adidas.com • 971-234-2300
The German company ended 2014 excited with how well established its Adizero line had become. While awaiting the introduction of the light and flexible shoe’s next incarnation in July, the home of Novak Djokovic and Caroline Wozniacki, among others, brings to market the next generation of its Barricades. On the men’s side, there is a renewed emphasis on comfort and responsiveness with a focus on a shoe well regarded for its support, stability and durability.
Highlighting the introductions is the new, dramatically patterned Saksaywaman Wall edition (shown, $150), which draws inspiration and name from the formidable and mysterious Incan stonewalled city. It will provide more mid-foot stability and greater freedom in the forefoot than in the past, similar to the new, redesigned Barricade 2015 ($140). Also new for men will be the Barricade Team 4 ($90), re-crafted to support the games of more aggressive players.
Stella McCartney-designed shoes continue to headline the distaff side of the line. The newest version of the Stella McCartney Barricade (shown, $125) expands on the tradition of support, comfort and style. Like the men’s version, the women’s Barricade Team 4 ($90) with its engineered mesh, features comfort and supports quick movements.
Sales support will include a continuation of the “Smash the Silence” campaign, enhanced digital and social media outreach, and in-store programs.
ASICS • asicsamerica.com • 800-678-9435
The seven-decade-old performance shoe, apparel and accessory company surges into 2015 still riding high from an increase in total market share as well as placing its Gel Resolution into the top-selling slot in the tennis specialty channel, according to Sports Marketing Surveys and the Tennis Industry Association. The newest version, the Gel-Resolution 6 (shown, $140) offers a lighter platform and improved upper fit available in both men’s and women’s versions. Three new colorways are being introduced at the beginning of the year, with two more to be added June 1.
The company is also updating its Challenger series, with the Gel-Challenger 10 (shown, $100) on shelves beginning in January. Performance has been enhanced via an improved upper fit system and more advanced mid- and outsole materials. The shoe debuts in two new color combinations, with another to come in June.
In addition to increased visibility through a growing rank of endorsers, retail support will be built around the Grand Slam tournaments, with both in-store and digital programs.
BABOLAT • babolat.com • 877-316-9435
France’s tennis-only company improves its top-of-the-line Propulse BPM All Court (shown, $120) for both men and women, with enhancements inside and out including a new insert, more advanced cushioning and durability and traction tweaks to the outsole in tandem with partner Michelin, as well as new colorways. Similar tweaks have been made to the men’s and women’s Propulse Team BPM All Court ($99), which also rolls out for 2015 in new colors.
In addition to the Propulse shoes, the company will be promoting its Babolat SFX All Court shoes ($105) in new colors for men and women by continuing its mix of television, print and digital ads, sponsorships, in-store efforts and through ongoing and aggressive social media outreach.
DIADORA • diadora.com • 800-768-4727
Following up the (re)introduction of the brand through its distribution deal with Dunlop, the Italian sporting goods manufacturer expands its offerings with new, vibrantly-hued S.Pro Evo AGs (shown, $119) in men’s and women’s versions featuring air mesh uppers, removable insoles, and durable outsoles, as well as the S.Star K VI for men (shown) and S.Star K III for women ($139) built with kangaroo leather uppers, and the removable insoles and robust
The company has plans to promote through social media and digital outreach — while also relying heavily on what it terms “grassroots” marketing — and will be introducing even more expanded color offerings as the year goes by. Marketing efforts are likely to rely on reminding consumers of the brand’s history as well as playing up the brand’s fashion-forward aesthetic.
FILA • fila.com • 800-845-FILA
Fila will add new color combos to both its men’s and women’s Sentinels ($100). Expectations are to continue the positive sales trends of the last few years with marketing efforts for the lightweight and stable shoe continuing to emphasize style and comfort. Efforts across all platforms will play up the connections between the company’s apparel and footwear collections, as well as the links among its tennis past, present and future.
HEAD • head.com • 800-289-7366
The rollout of the new Revolt Pro shoes ($140 for men and women; $80 for juniors) begun in late 2014 continues through the first months of the new year. Highlights of the technology include an extra stable feel achieved by borrowing from advances made on the company’s ski boot side. New colorways are planned for the men’s, women’s and junior lines. In-store POP, digital and print advertising campaigns coalescing under the #gameraiser theme will continue.
K-SWISS • kswiss.com • 800-768-4727
While the California company recently changed the direction of the stripes on their logo as a symbol of how they are moving forward, they do so building on their “d-rings,” five stripes and a tradition of focusing on comfort and style, as well as the popularity of their brand ambassadors, the Bryan brothers.
The new Hypercourt (shown, $130) line will be thematically related on the outside to the iconic shoe from years ago, but has performance-based insides. New colorways are being added for the Hypercourt Express ($110), a lightweight shoe introduced last year as the “Ultra Express;” with a line extension to the Hypercourt Express LTR ($110), an all-leather version. The Bigshot line, including the Bigshot ($130), the Bigshot Light 2.5 ($90; and the company’s best-selling shoe) and Bigshot Light 2.5 ($65; a junior version), will also see new color offerings in the new year.
NEW BALANCE • newbalance.com • 800-253-7463
The Boston-based company updates its premiere lightweight shoe, the 996v2 (shown, $150) for men and women, and introduces its first clay-court specific shoe, the 60v1 ($99.95). The 996, to be featured on the feet of Milos Raonic among others, will be available in numerous colorways and has been engineered for stability and durability while supporting quick cuts. The 60, in various stylings for men and women, finds its inspiration in the company’s Minimus line, but has the enhancements of interior technology and external elements to support play on the dirt.
NIKE • nike.com • 800-344-6453
Unlike companies that issue shoes by season, the Oregon-based sporting goods behemoth pulses out new footwear in wave after wave. First up for the home of Serena, Maria, Roger, and Rafa will be two new men’s styles scheduled to hit shelves as balls first start flying back and forth at Melbourne Park. The lightweight, low-profile Nike Zoom Cage 2 ($135) also features a durable outsole and arrives in solid colors; the Lunar Ballistec 1.5 ($165) is built with extra support for its extremes of lightweight and comfort. Sales support will, of course, rely on the ubiquity of the iconic swoosh, but specific programs will also be run through social media and in-store programs.
PRINCE • princetennis.com • 800-2TENNIS
Prince begins the new year rolling out new stylings for its rugged Prince Warrior ($109) for men and women, and readily available in both hard- and clay-court constructions, as well as for the industry-leading stalwart of its line, the T22 (shown, $110). The company will be supporting sales with print and digital advertising, in-store merchandising, its tour team and an aggressive social media presence.
WILSON • wilson.com • 773-714-6400
Construction enhancements on the inside of its signature shoes bring to the men’s and women’s Rush Pro 2.0 (shown, $140) what the company describes as an immediate “perfect fit.” There has also been a shaving of weight and addition of stability features to the model that was very well received with its 2013 introduction. Also new will be the high-performance nVision Elite ($110), created for the strong club-level player and featuring women-specific support inside.
Marketing programs will include advertisements on multiple platforms, in-store merchandising, social media outreach, and extensive support for training sales staff.
See all articles by Kent Oswald
About the Author
Kent Oswald is a contributor to TennisNow.com, producer at the JockBookReview.com and a former editor of Tennis Week magazine.
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