As online shopping has become easier and more trusted, and people have become lazier, many sneaker stores have migrated online to capitalise on changing demands. However, a new trend is developing where businesses are expanding in the opposite direction too. We're hearing of more and more retailers who are testing the waters by starting as an online business, with a view to opening physical stores in the future. After five years holding it down on the web, Germany's Allikestore.com has entered the flesh and stone world, opening their first store in Hamburg's Altona district. Now that the paint has dried, Allike’s founder Fiete has finally found the time to answer a couple of questions for SF Germany.
Fiete, after almost five years you finally pulled the trigger on opening up a physical store to go with your online shop. Was the web biz not enough?
It was a logical step for us to go offline following the online success to offer our customers a physical shopping experience. Besides, Hamburg was missing a store like ours, as we sell high-end streetwear and accessories along with our offering of sneakers.
How did it actually come about, that you started selling sneakers and streetwear?
I spent many years working for the design departments of various streetwear brands and also had my own brands. On top of that I’ve been skating for 20 years. Footwear is a big part of skating anyway – when you skate it’s not just about the looks of the shoe but also the way it works and how suitable it is for skating. Through the design processes and skating I started getting into sneakers more and more. And to cover my shoe needs I figured it’d be a good idea to sell some on the side.
What made you settle in Altona rather than the Karolinen Quarter?
I figured that an off-location was an interesting and exciting idea, as I could better execute the concept I had than if I had settled in the Schanzen or the Karolinen Quarter. Altona is an up and coming neighbourhood and there are many new things happening here.
How would you describe the current state of the sneaker business?
Releases, bots, releases, hype kids.
There are always more and more sneaker and streetwear shops opening up. Do you see this as a challenge or a problem?
Back in the day, it was a lot more chilled when there were only a few stores in Germany and there wasn’t as much stress in the business. I think it’s great that the culture has grown as a whole and I welcome every well thought-out concept. But there are many superfluous things. And the flood of releases makes it hard to stay on top of things – it’s all a double-edged sword.
Your range of products includes adidas, Nike, New Balance, Asics, Puma, Converse, Reebok, Clae, Clarks, Saucony, Gourmet and Vans. Do you find that the smaller brands are harder to sell, or do the kids and customers only ask for the big brands anyway?
Obviously the big brands have a great presence in many styles, so the big brands are generally in higher demand. But I also think it is important to show off the smaller brands, as they always offer innovation and something new.
What smaller brands do you think we should keep an eye on?
Since I started with Allike back in 2009, we imported Gourmet straight from the US. I feel that those brands are always exciting and innovative – you should definitely keep an eye out for Gourmet. Concerning runners, I think that Saucony is a very exciting brand, as they have a lot of potential. Also, you shouldn’t forget about Clae, the 'Gentleman’s Sneaker Brand'.
What style do you think brands should definitely bring back?
Retro-Racers with Spikes!
What do you think is the best retro in recent history?
The Adidas Stan Smith, THE classic. No messing about, just the OG Colourway. Perfection!
You already mentioned that you sell apparel. What brands do you carry?
Among others we sell Libertine Libertine, Norse Projects, Wood Wood, Palace, Soulland, Henrik Vibskov, Raised by Wolves, Our Legacy, Penfield, Good Bois, Edwin Denim, Porter Bags and Publish.
Are streetwear and sneakers inseparable to you? Which brands have been most influential?
To me it’s just a logical consequence of how the sneaker game has evolved. When I started Allike, I focused mainly on sneakers. Nowadays the customers are all well informed and want a complete outfit to go with their shoes that should match the quality of their shoes. We wanted to step up with our own textile brand but we also wanted to provide more choices to our customers, so we also offer the likes of Henrik Vibskov, Our Legacy or Won Hundred. I would say that Norse Project, Libertine Libertine, Publish, Soulland and Wood Wood had a great influence on the sneaker scene.
If you take a look at the last couple of years, there has been a lot of innovation in the game, e.g. Flyknit, Primeknit, Flux… What has impressed you the most?
I always find it interesting how Nike manages to combine and connect their latest innovations with each other, take the Air Max Lunar 1, for example. The combination of the Lunarlon sole and the Air system is just unbelievably comfy. Or take a look at the Roshe Run Flyknit, that combines Flyknit with a Free sole. And adidas has been doing impressive stuff with their Boost releases.
If you had the chance to collaborate on a shoe, which would it be?
In general I would say that working on classic silhouettes is very tempting, like the Gel Lyte III, Air Max 1, Guidance or a 998. And I’ve already made plans with brands to work on shoes – but you’ll have to be patient!