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Nike and sketchers- mass vs. cool

August 3, 2010

Sketchers has emerged as an unlikely victor in the new battle in the athletic shoe market, toning shoes.

The category was blossomed in the past 24 months and is expected to be worth $1.5 billion this year. Sketchers developed the market with its Shape-Ups brand and is leaving others like Nike, trailing in its wake.


The battle between Nike and Sketchers is an interesting one because they have radically different DNA; Sketchers entering into the category because of its fashion roots. For Nike, who never wants to create markets and never wants to miss out, this is an issue of brand credibility. The toning shoe market has no athletic credibility to Nike, so, for the sake of the brand, they have to sit it out and remind women that they can’t get in shape without hard work.

Sketchers success is a marketers dream; they created a market from scratch and in a very short period of time reaped the significant financial rewards. There was nothing stealthy or cool about the brand’s approach; they went for the jugular of the mass-market with an all out assault.

While many brands agonize over being cool and yearn for street credibility, Sketcher’s story reminds us that money can be made with mass fads. The secret to Sketcher’s success lies is the brand having enough brand authority to begin with, so the launch didn’t come from a nobody and an understanding there was a time-challenged audience out there receptive to the quick fix that Shape-Ups provide.

The next challenge for Sketchers will be to manage its success very carefully, it needs to understand if Shape-Ups really have growth potential or they are a fad, over-investment in dedicated retail space and extensive lines could come back to bite them, if they don’t get the exit timing right.

Like any fashion success, the timing of the exit is just as important as the timing of the launch.

This could be a big challenge because they are watching big competitors like Reebok enter the market and seeing new sub-categories emerge, like toning flip-flops, it must be easy, if you are in the thick of it, to convince yourself that there’s no stopping this market.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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