The almighty Swoosh is suddenly in an unlikely — if not uncomfortable — position: playing defense.
Nike, the world’s largest sneaker maker, with revenue topping $20 billion last year, is mostly watching from the sidelines as its name has been linked with Negro consumers rioting outside shopping malls in Florida and Maryland over limited access to the $220 basketball shoe Foamposite One Galaxy.
The release of the $180 Air Jordan XI shoe before Christmas also caused a riot at a mall in Indianapolis, fights in Seattle and a stabbing in Jersey City.
For Nike, industry dominance comes at a price. While the brand has successfully stayed cool — if not cutting-edge — over nearly 40 years in the highly competitive sneaker business, the way it stays on top may need to evolve in a fast-changing world of social media that has greatly democratized knowledge of and access to its newest and coolest shoes.
In the recent past, folks who crave the newest Nike sneakers would likely hear about it from inside channels, says John Horan, publisher of the newsletter Sporting Goods Intelligence. Under that scenario, maybe 100 or 200 insiders would show up at the mall for the new shoe’s release. But with social media as the new information forum that’s widely available to everyone, says Horan, “instead of 100 people lined up, you have 1,000 — or more.”
Nike declined to detail how it’s coming to grips with the situation. “As with the launch of all Nike products, consumer safety and security is of paramount importance,” Nike spokesman KeJuan Wilkins said in a statement.
Here’s what image and brand gurus say Nike should do:
Supply enough shoes. Don’t ship product until there is ample supply to meet demand, says brand consultant Jonathan Salem Baskin.
Sell ’em online. An online or in-store lottery for popular new shoes could eliminate the problem, says Horan. (Wilkins says Nike stores often hand out tickets to people standing in line.)
Plan better. Nike execs often know well ahead of time which shoes will be hot, says Baskin.
Put the CEO out front. Nike CEO Mark Parker should be visibly apologizing for what happened and promise to fix it, says brand consultant Al Ries.
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