Sneaking Up

I read a stat recently that three out of four Americans own at least one pair of sneakers. But could Nike’s current difficulties be an indication that Americans don’t love their sneakers enough?

As recently as the mid-90s, US manufacturers like Nike and New Balance were still insisting that customers bought their shoes purely for athletic purposes. But today’s market has been shaped more by European tastes in vintage and fashion sneakers. At least that’s the argument of Tony Bertone, director of brand management at Puma, the German sneaker firm, which has tripled revenues since 2001.

In today’s Guardian newspaper, Bertone says trainers are less of a fashion item in the US because they have been around as bog-standard footwear for longer. “In Europe, [sneakers] have been part of people’s lives only for the past 20 years or so, so they see them as something more special.”

Phil Knight is saying Nike has too much on its plate to buy Puma. But the company is giving him plenty of food for thought.