Nike turned into a luxury brand when no one was looking


Nike shoes

Getty/Pablo Cuadra

Nike shoes.

For anyone who has recently bought Nike shoes or apparel, or walked into one of its latest stores, this won't be news: Nike has slid upscale recently.

In 2016, it overtook Louis Vuitton as the most valuable apparel brand in the world, according to a ranking by Forbes.

"It's not like people aren't spending money on high-priced items," Business Insider retail analyst Cooper Smith told Complex in May. "It's just that their preferences for lifestyle and their preferences for fashion are changing."


Simply put: customers are willing to shell out more for what they prefer.

Nike is taking advantage of that mindset with its prices. Nike has a lot of different models of shoes, ranging from the relatively inexpensive Air Monarch ($55) and going all the way up to the $720 HyperAdapt 1.0 self-lacing sneakers.

But more telling is the focus of Nike's advertising and innovation efforts, which, with few exceptions, is nearly always on the higher end of the price scale. For example, the Air Monarch is one of Nike's best-selling shoes, and it frequently appears on lists of the brand's top performers. But you wouldn't know that by Nike's telling of the story. The brand's promotional efforts skew towards its newest and greatest inventions, as well as its more expensive offerings.


Nike 45 Grand 60

Hollis Johnson

Training in a Nike gym.

That goes for the newest Air Jordans and the most technologically advanced trainers, as well as the priciest apparel, including (but not limited to) its $100 sweatpants. You know who else sells $100 sweatpants? Upscale Ralph Lauren brand Club Monaco.

More recently, Nike has signaled a different approach to welcoming customers into its stores. Its new store in New York's Soho neighborhood offers customers the opportunity to make one-on-one appointments with Nike staff for up to an hour. Customers can bring in all kinds of concerns for the staff to help with, including shoe fittings and finding the right equipment for all skill levels.


If that sounds like Apple's Genius Bar, we have a sneaking suspicion it takes inspiration from that concept.

The store also has areas where customers can test out its shoes and equipment in an "immersive experience." It represents a shift in how the company sees brick-and-mortar retail, and is being called a guide for future stores from the brand.


Reuters/Danny Moloshok

The Nike Mag limited edition.


Nike's most expensive product by far is the HyperAdapt 1.0 sneaker. It's special in that it can automatically lace up when you slip your foot in. It's also special in that it does not come in Nike's characteristic orange box. It instead comes in a special, premium-seeming one, with room for both sneakers laid flat, the charging puck, and a little card with a phone number reserved specially for HyperAdapt owners.

Any HyperAdapt owner can call that number for service whenever they need, and they will instantly get a live human on the phone for any concern they may have.

Nike clearly believes that an elevated price point also means elevated service, and it's headed full speed in that direction. As Nike places a larger emphasis on its direct-to-consumer division, it's also taking greater care of how it is perceived by customers, as well as how it interacts with those customers.


Nike Shoes


Nike HyperAdapt packaging.

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