Footwear: Fancy Footwork
Manufacturers are aggressively moving to add to their share as the shoe market continues to increase.
By Kent Oswald
Footwear manufacturers are catching their breath as we round the calendar’s final turn beginning with the US Open’s fortnight. The strong sales of recent years have continued, with the market adapting to more brands fighting for space on shelves, technological advances in construction, and greater emphasis on fashion-forward stylings.
Entering 2015, there was a 6.4 percent spike in tennis footwear sales ($174 million in 2014 vs. $163.6 million in 2013), outpacing the 1.9 percent increase in total sales of licensed sportswear, according to Sports and Fitness Industry Association figures. While 2015 figures are not yet available, word-of-mouth suggests reasons for continued optimism, although not the same year-over-year increase.
There were even hints of a return to the glory days when the all-white Stan Smith shoe was reintroduced by Adidas and gussied up with versions featuring color splashes that engage today’s consumers. That shoe gained recognition as the “Achievement Award for Shoe of the Year” from Footwear News, the first time the industry publication had so honored a shoe.
While not all manufacturers introduce new product in these last few months of the year, each is aggressively pushing to keep and add to its share as the market increases, and there are many reasons to keep one’s eye on the feet as well as the ball.
This fall will see the three-stripe company continuing to promote the lightweight adizero Ubersonic (women, $120; men, $125) and a Tennis Magazine Editor’s Choice, the Barricade 2015 Boost (shown, men, $120). The Ubersonic competes in the lightweight category, although the company also stresses the product’s support and durability. This Barricade features not just the series’ traditional flexibility, comfort, and stability, but also increased energy return in the heel through placement of the company’s Boost foam.
The past few years have been very good for growth of the Asics section of the shoe wall. Upcoming promotion includes print advertising and new in-store free-standing displays and slat-wall backers for the GEL-Resolution 6 ($140), an extension of the tennis specialty channel’s top-selling shoe, which in new colorways will be worn at the US Open by Gael Monfils, Steve Johnson, Samantha Stosur and Coco Vandeweghe. Because beauty is not just skin deep, resulting from the company efforts to seek out new materials, the upper is not just more comfortable, but also
allows for a more vibrant print on the underlying mesh.
For the fall, Babolat continues to promote its lighter Babolat Propulse BPM (shown, $119.95) and more durable Babolat SFX All Court ($99), both introduced earlier this year and featuring soles developed in conjunction with Michelin. There will be repeated social media efforts marketing the shoes to those already engaged with the brand, as well as local events, in-store merchandising and promotional discounts.
The S.Star K VI (men, $139) and S.Star K III (women, $139) continue as the focus of Diadora’s marketing efforts until the Italian company launches its 2016 line — with highlights to include new technology, new styling and wear guarantees on more price points. The company will hope for more social media successes like a viral pic of Jay-Z in B-Elite Classics, previously made famous by Bjorn Borg, as it builds brand interest at the grassroots in the comfort, styling and playability of the shoes with outreach efforts coordinated through American distributor Dunlop.
Fila expects to be on message through the end of the year in stressing for retailers and players the integration of its apparel and footwear collections. The Sentinel ($100) will continue as the base on court for messengers on tour, including Julia Goerges, Jelena Jankovic and Sam Querrey.
Print and digital advertising will be the primary marketing initiatives for the Revolt Pro Shoes (men, women, $119.95 (MAP), juniors $79.95 (MSRP)) to year’s end. The emphasis will be on technological benefits, although social media outreach will continue, highlighting players who tag posts with #gameraiser.
Comfort, style and the brand ambassador Bryan Brothers are slated to remain the hallmarks as promotion of the Hypercourt ($130) continues. Additional marketing muscle will be added with highlights of the Tennis Magazine Editor’s Choice award
for “best new line.”
The US Open and fall events will feature Milos Raonic, Heather Watson and Nicole Gibbs wearing the 996v2 ($119.99) as testimony to the shoe’s stability, flexibility and durability. The company, continuing its outgrowth from “just” tennis footwear into the rest of the market, will work with stores and at events to bring
attention to the complementary kits.
The Beaverton, Ore., sportswear juggernaut guarantees year-round attention for its shoes with one-name endorsers like Rafa, Roger and Maria, as well as its ubiquity on the feet of other, two-name, stars. For the summer and into the fall the company will be supporting sales of the full line with buzz generated by in-store promotions, video outreach, social media campaigns, and the attention rippling out from a Wimbledon launch event featuring Serena Williams, who is credited with consulting on the dimpled, lightweight and sturdy NikeCourt Flare ($165).
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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