Nike’s coolness is slipping with teens as streetwear gains popularity

Kids have cooled a bit on Nike.
Kids have cooled a bit on Nike.
Image: AP Photo/Michael Noble Jr.
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According to some 6,000 teens in geographically diverse high schools around the US, Nike’s status as the top brand among young Americans is under pressure.

The finding comes from investment bank Piper Jaffray, which has been tracking brand preferences and spending among teens in its semi-annual “Taking Stock With Teens” survey since 2001. Its latest report saw teens’ preference for Nike slip for the first time in years, senior research analyst Erinn Murphy told Footwear News.

Nike was still the top brand in both clothing and footwear in the survey, which calculates “mindshare” based on teens’ votes for their preferred brands and trends. But other brands made strong gains at Nike’s expense.

Adidas, for one, continues to thrive on Nike’s home turf. It saw gains across every segment of teens across gender and income level.

But one of the bigger surprises was the momentum of streetwear and affiliated labels, notably Vans and Supreme. Streetwear has emerged as a powerful forces in fashion over the last few years. Its ties to hip-hop, skating, and its focus on casual clothes and graphics have made it particularly popular among younger generations of shoppers.

Nike has made efforts to associate itself with streetwear, collaborating for instance with fashion designer Virgil Abloh—the new creative chief of Louis Vuitton menswear—who has reconstructed various Nike sneakers for highly sought-after but limited-number releases. But overall, streetwear’s growth has been of more help to brands such as Vans, Supreme, and even Adidas, which has done well selling retro and casual, fashion-focused footwear, while Nike still mostly emphasizes performance shoes. In fact, Adidas was the single largest gainer in the new survey.

Nike and Adidas both benefit from being in the category of athletic wear, which in general remains above its historic popularity average with teens. Among upper-income females, Lululemon and leggings came in as the top-ranked fashion trend, a position it has held in three of the last four Piper Jaffray teen surveys. Being an activewear brand doesn’t guarantee cachet with kids though. Under Armour saw its mindshare continue to diminish.

Piper Jaffray’s outlook on Nike won’t do anything to reassure the company’s investors, either. Despite recent reassurances from Nike that it believes its struggles in North America are over, Piper Jaffray says sentiment among teens at least isn’t reflecting a broad turnaround just yet. “We believe a return to positive regional growth could be at much lower levels than investors anticipate,” the report states.