The generation gap is also proving to be an incisive factor. Stores naturally mature along with their diminishing core audience. Learning how to put aside personal taste and connect to a younger, less ‘sneaker savvy’ customer is imperative – maintaining a leading edge at the same time is the challenge.Going ‘upmarket’ to a more mature vibe may impress the 30+ dudes, but it won’t bring tonnes of teens in the door if all you sell are Visvim and Redwing.
Frankly, Gen Y could care less for Gen X’s sentimental memories of vintage ‘sneaker hunting’ and other ‘ancient’ customs with no relevance to their digitally labyrinthine lives. Kids want uncomplicated fun! It’s a bitter pill, but one which all stores need to swallow – roll with the times or you’ll be the ‘old fossil’ stuck in the tar pit.
Throw the internet curveball into this discussion and the side effects are equally contagious. The music industry has felt this pain more than most. File sharing and plummeting sales have shown that once the digital floodgates open, everything changes.
Five years ago, most stores could only dream of ‘officially’ selling online as the big sneaker brands resisted the avalanche. Once it became an online free-for-all, many stores improved their bottom line by a percentage, but any gain was negated by internet-only retailers who seemingly have a huge overhead advantage.
It’s a futile exercise condemning the impact of technology in our consumer lives. It’s here and it’s never going away. As Natalie Massenet proved with net-a-porter.com, it’s the superfuture, even for notoriously controlling high-end labels. Every brand wants to sell more and you can’t argue with that as the bottom line. Let’s just say the internet makes good things better and multiplies the negatives as well.
Cold comfort if you’re the loser.
Check out our next feature: HOW TO LACE YOUR SNEAKERS!