By eliminating "the lavish, big annual payments and royalties on icons like Michael Jordan," and focusing instead on "sleek design and … good materials," Steve & Barry’s University Sportswear is selling a sneaker for $14.95 that it says provides "the same performance attributes found in sneakers selling for $100 or more," reports Stephanie Kang in The Wall Street Journal (10/19/06). The sneaker, does carry "the name of NBA star Stephon Marbury," but the athlete is paid royalties instead of a salary." Very good, class — there’s no "economic rent." And it looks like Starbury One, as the sneak is known, will pay off nicely for the star and his marketers alike.
"Steve & Barry’s … 150 locations have sold more in the first three days of the launch than the company’s total footwear sales for the previous three months." Payless Shoes is also taking on Nike’s universe with a $35 shoe called The Amp, that it says "can even be used to run a marathon." The Amp even impressed Warren Greene of Runner’s World magazine: "It flexes in the right places," he says, "it didn’t look like it would fall apart. I ran in it and it wasn’t awful." Both Starbury One and The Amp are "calculated to hit a nerve with sneaker buyers facing triple-digit prices and wondering if the bells and whistles are worth it." Research by NPD Group suggests their aim is true, reporting that "sales of sneakers under $50 made up more than half of the U.S. market in the 12 months that ended in August, with sales up 8.7 percent from two years earlier.
By comparison, sales of shoes that cost more than $90 made up just eight percent of the market, though sales have grown at a faster clip, up 24 percent." A Nike spokesperson responds by first noting that it offers shoes starting at just $20, and then says, "Our products, created by the industry’s best footwear designers, are based on our insights working with the world’s best athletes and using our industry-leading research lab and manufacturing process." Others say that serious athletes won’t take a chance on cheap sneaks. But as Stephon Marbury himself observes: "There are kids that don’t have a choice … Now people can buy a line and say, ‘OK, we’re buying the same exact quality for $14.98 or less." ~ Tim Manners, editor