Companies know that many parents don’t have a lot of time to shop for their kids new outfits—which is why subscription services designed to make the process more automated and less time consuming are flourishing. Brands like Rockets of Awesome, Kidsbox, and Stitchfix Kids have popped up over the last few years promising to send boxes of clothes on a schedule to keep up with your child’s growth spurts. Now, Nike is joining the club.
Today, the retail giant launches the Nike Adventure Club, which will send a pair of Nike or Converse kicks at regular intervals. You can get them on a monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly basis. Each pair of shoes works out to between $50 and $60 a pair—which puts the service on higher end of the kids’ sneaker market (though Nike’s kids’ sneakers themselves vary considerably in price from $40 to $100, so many of the shoes within this program may actually be cheaper than buying directly from the store). Customers can choose what style they want, from performance shoes for sport to casual everyday sneakers, and they can also skip months and easily swap sneakers if they don’t fit or their kid doesn’t like them.
Dave Cobban, the general manager of the Nike Adventure Club, says the company has been building this subscription service for the past two years. Nike brought on 10,000 families from its customer base to test it out, and ultimately found that the parents most interested in this program were people who valued convenience and time over price. “One mother said that between driving her kids to soccer practice and music class, she just didn’t have the time to go to the mall to buy a new pair of shoes,” he says. “This program solved a problem for her.”
Cobban created the program with the kids in mind too, though: The online interface allows them to easily pick the style of the shoe they want in the box (their parents don’t have to worry about pricing differences, since the program charges a single monthly fee). And to make the unboxing experience more fun, Nike is customizing the box with the kid’s name. It is also collaborating with KaBoom, a national nonprofit focused on giving kids of all backgrounds the opportunity to play. Together, Nike and Kaboom will create content and activities, filling the box with things like stickers and booklets with ideas for fun outdoor activities.
Nike is also pitching this program as a way to make kid’s shoes more sustainable. When your child grows out of a pair or they get worn out, you can send shoes back—either in the Adventure Club box or by requesting a prepaid shoe bag—to the company, and even include non-Nike shoes you want to get rid of. If a shoe is in good condition, Nike will donate it to a nonprofit. But if it has reached the end of its life, Nike will recycle it through its Grind program, which breaks down athletic footwear to turn it into other products, including running tracks and playgrounds.
Right now, consumers don’t have great alternatives when it comes to recycling shoes, and since kids go through them so quickly, this means a lot of shoes end up in landfills. This subscription box will certainly make recycling easier, which could make it more likely that parents actually do it. But on the other hand, a subscription model might also encourage parents to buy more sneakers than they normally would, or than is necessary. In the most frequent Nike plan, kids would get a new pair every month. No child actually needs that many shoes, but some sneakerheads might be enticed by the idea of having the hottest new kicks every month. This kind of consumption isn’t very sustainable, though. Producing shoes is resource intensive, and while recycling them at the end of their life is better than throwing them in a landfill, it is still an energy- and carbon-intensive process. A better solution would be to own fewer sneakers and get a lot of use out of them before replacing them.
Cobban says that from the data Nike gathered from the trial, this subscription plan did not seem to change customer behavior as far as how many shoes they bought. Of the 10,000 families in the program, 60% of customers picked the least frequent plan of four pairs a year. Only 10% opted for one sneaker every month. These tended to be fashion-conscious kids who wanted different color shoes to better match outfits. “For families that are already buying a lot of shoes for their kids, our hope is that our program will mean that more of those shoes get donated or recycled,” he says.