Sneaker Wars: Nike-StockX Feud Points to Deepening Rift in Footwear

Nike-StockX Feud Points to Riff in Footwear

So, you wanna buy some sneakers?

That used to be a pretty straightforward proposition that, once upon a time, was heavily skewed toward back-to-school sales in stores each fall.

Today, finding the right pair of kicks, as they say, has become an increasingly expansive and expensive process that has stratified athletic footwear into a million different makes, models and markets, not least of which is the recent emergence of a robust secondhand business.

Nowhere is the fighting in this new battleground more pronounced than in the ongoing and escalating legal scuffle between Nike and StockX, the respective leaders of the new and used categories, that are actively embroiled in the non-core activity of litigation.

Read more: Nike Alleges Sneaker Marketplace StockX is Selling Fake Shoes

While this David-versus-Goliath suit plays out in federal court and the respective parties work through their counterfeiting claims versus baseless claims, the rest of the sneaker-making world is embroiled in its own basket of turmoil, ranging from global supply chain issues to Chinese COVID-19 restrictions to inflation and more.

The Best and Worst of Times

Although the privately held Detroit-based upstart StockX is just 7 years old and still inching towards an IPO in a market that has currently lost its appetite for D2C platforms and websites, the world’s largest athletic footwear, apparel and equipment maker and retailer is mired in its own share of muck, with its stock down 35% in the past six months — and erasing $100 billion of market value along the way.

See more: Sneaker Reseller StockX Inches Toward IPO As reCommerce Continues to Roil Retail

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What’s strange is that this unprecedented decline in the nearly 60-year-old owner of the patented swoosh logo is happening at a time of peak consumer demand for athleisure clothes and shoes, albeit one that is also filled with new competitors and re-emergent old ones.

For its part, Nike has been busy leveraging the unmatched clout of its brand and unwavering strength of product lines such as Air Jordan, by moving to grow its D2C business at the expense of long-standing wholesale customers such as Foot Locker.

Read more: Nike Building ‘Marketplace of the Future,’ With More D2C and Fewer Markdowns

While the extent and logic of that strategy will be debated and measured over time, the reality of the shift in the short term is that it has served to strengthen the bond between one of Nike’s best customers and its archrival.

This, as Foot Locker and Adidas announced an enhanced partnership last week that will see the German sporting goods company and the operator of 2,900 stores working together in new ways to develop and sell exclusive products.

See more: Germany’s Adidas, Foot Locker Enhance Partnership Around Customer Experience, Connectivity

“We are delighted to be deepening our partnership with Foot Locker as we continue to execute our ‘Own the Game’ strategy,” Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted said in the joint press release, adding that consumers are at the heart of the collaboration and would be able to experience the brand, key products and new innovations, more than ever before.

Invigorated Opponents

While Nike contends with courtroom battles against resellers and stockroom fights with retailers, its efforts to retain its lion’s share of the lucrative sports apparel and footwear market is facing fresh challenges from other competitors too.

Puma, for example, has been actively looking to gain favor with women via new sponsorship deals and its “She Moves Us” promotional campaign.

Read more: With Athletic Apparel and Footwear in Disarray, Puma Pounces With Push For Women

At the same time, newer names like Lululemon are branching out into all new categories, including golf, tennis and footwear. Lululemon, in particular, is aggressively looking to expand its offering to men and internationally, where it currently only does about 15% of its sales.

See more: The Next 5 Years at Lululemon Will Be All About International, Digital and Menswear

Even battered brands like Reebok, which was acquired by Authentic Brands Group from Adidas for $2.5 billion in March, is looking to revive the iconic ’80s brand with trendy new lines of clothing and shoes aimed at Nike’s core demographic.

Read more: Authentic Brands Wants to Offer Reebok NFTs, Crypto Payments