When sneaker brands introduce a new design or technology, they’ll often find ways to mix it into different products across their range. They splice it into older styles, helping to reinvigorate them, or blend two new products together in a hybrid, drawing from the ongoing excitement around each. Results can vary, but overall the strategy lets brands get maximum return on their innovation.
Nike has long been adept at it, and is again showing its capability. In July the company released the Air Max 270 React, which mashes together its already-popular Air Max 270 silhouette with its React foam cushioning. Both elements made their debuts last year, but the new style is giving the company a fresh boost.
On a call with investors to discuss its earnings (pdf) yesterday, CEO Mark Parker pointed to the shoe as a key driver of Nike’s 11% growth in footwear sales this quarter. “We have created a runaway hit by blending Air Max and React with multiple bold colorways,” he said. “In fact the 270 Air Max React led to the largest gains in footwear revenue for the quarter.”
The shoe’s success is more about its design than any performance advantage. (Its foundation, the Air Max 270, was Nike’s first Air sneaker intended purely as a casual shoe.) The initial releases took their bright, eye-catching color inspirations from key points in art and design history. One celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the hugely influential Bauhaus design school. Others referred to mid-century-esque color blocking or psychedelia. Nike also gave it a compellingly layered look, allowing elements to cover the swoosh, for instance, and using a technique that lets the eyestay float slightly off the shoe.
That a fashion sneaker was a leader for the athletic brand is hardly a surprise at a time when most people buying sneakers aren’t using them for anything athletic anyway. Parker said that sportswear, which is Nike’s lifestyle segment, continued “to lead all categories in both footwear and apparel, growing strong double digits.”
Other big sales drivers for Nike were its digital business, led by mobile apps such as SNKRS, and Greater China, which the company pointed out has seen double-digit growth every quarter for more than five years. Its results topped analyst expectations in all geographies except North America, its largest market, where growth in its apparel business slowed.
It was optimistic for the months ahead though, because of the products it has in the works. It noted that it’s beginning to scale its newest running technology, Joyride, and will be integrating it across various categories, including sportswear products.