Nike is shuffling executives and searching for its next 'breakthrough innovation' as unwanted Air Maxes and Air Jordans pile up
- Nike this week announced a slew of executive moves, including new presidents.
- The company wants to develop the next "breakthrough innovation."
Nike this week announced a series of executive changes designed to underscore the company's "commitment to product innovation" just as more analysts start to question the company's "stale" product lineup.
Once-coveted Air Jordans and Air Maxes are now sitting on shelves, with some retro Jordans selling below retail on the secondary market.
"Air Max is Becoming Air Min," reads the headline of a report this week from Williams Trading analyst Sam Poser, who downgraded Nike's stock to sell.
On Wednesday, Nike announced a series of executive moves and touted the shuffle as a way to supercharge product development. In the roughly 500-word press release, Nike used the word "innovation" four times.
"These shifts will allow us to streamline our focus across product, brand storytelling, and marketplace, mining deep consumer insights to deliver breakthrough innovation and engagement, while building long-term growth and profitability," CEO John Donahoe said in a press release.
While numerous analysts remain bullish on Nike, Poser is among those who say Nike needs to ramp up innovation.
"There is not enough compelling new product offerings, and the old product has become stale," Poser wrote, pointing to Air Max running shoes and family footwear as examples.
"There is no newness coming out of Nike," said industry analyst and ARCH-USA founder Chris Burns, who recently wrote about "peak Nike."
After two years of heavy retro buying, many consumers also have filled their closets with Jordans, Dunks, and Blazers. They don't need another pair.
In a separate recent research report, Burns noted searches on eBay for "Air Jordan" and "men's sneakers" dropped from 28 million to 18 million between March 2022 and March 2023.
In his report, Poser noted a number of premium Nike sneakers are on sale for less than $100, including the Pegasus, LeBron 9 low, Luka 1, Metcon, Space Hippie, Blazer, some Air Force 1s, and Air Max 90s, 95s, and 270s.
Some recent retro Jordans have sold for less than retail on StockX, Poser noted, including the Jordan 5 Retro SE Craft Light Orewood Brown.
While the lifestyle sneaker business is losing steam, the performance sneaker business, a historical Nike strength, is humming. But here, Nike is facing increased competition.
Hoka on Thursday reported a 40% increase in quarterly sales. Merrell sales increased 27%. On Running's sales climbed 55% to more than $1 billion last year.
"Anything that is that sort of wellness influenced is what has been moving," Jessica Ramirez, senior research analyst at Jane Hali & Associates, told Insider. "We've seen lifestyle sneakers really take a bit of a setback."
Consumers often prioritize multi-use items, like performance and hiking shoes, during uncertain economic and inflationary periods, Ramirez said. They want footwear that can be worn for workouts as well as in the office and while running errands.
"When you move to running, hiking, and anything that is outdoor related, those sneakers are not being put on promotion and they are holding up their prices," she told Insider.
Nike's been in this position before.
"The current activity is eerily familiar to 2015 and 2016 when Nike stretched the Jordan brand to near over saturation, in order to offset lack of newness in other categories," Poser wrote.
At its 2017 investor day, Nike announced the Air Max 270. Other next-generation products followed, including Vaporfly, which helped Nike get back in front of consumers.
But one lingering question for Poser and Burns is whether Nike's still got product-development muscle it needs.
"Nike has lost many senior people throughout the entire company with, now necessary, historical institutional knowledge of Nike," Poser wrote. "As such, Nike's game today is not as good as it was five years ago."
A 2020 round of layoffs whittled away at the company's footwear ranks. Others left voluntarily, with one former Nike footwear designer last year telling Insider the talent drain would show up on store shelves this year.
"You'll definitely see it next year in spring and summer '23," the former designer told Insider.
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