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How Will COVID-19 Impact the Future of Sneaker Retail?

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As the world continues to come to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic, there's palpable uncertainty surrounding the future of retail. The virus has instigated a global economic disaster, which has left sneaker stores around the world, especially independents, with an up-hill battle. We know that online sales are booming, but we must remember that those numbers aren’t doing enough to offset the losses that stem from bricks-and-mortar lockdown.

With that in mind, we hit up our retail homies from all corners of the globe to discuss the future of the sneaker scene. Special thanks to the crews from atmos, Lobby, Brooklyn Projects, VegNonVeg, Bodega, Overkill, Latte, Black Box, Up There, and Foot District! We're wishing you all the best.

What the Coming Months has in Store...

atmos (Tokyo, Japan): I think it will be a long battle, so the focus will be on online business and reinforcing the personnel. Online sales are now growing, as store sales are going down. We have opened stores in Southeast Asia recently, but due to the virus, now is a good opportunity to review problems and make improvements. There will also be a continued focus on marketing activities such as digital activations and community content. We recently did an ‘AIR MAX QUIZ’ online event for atmos members, which was well received.

Lobby (Hamburg, Germany): For shoe releases, it’s not gonna change too much. We had a couple of nice things planned for the Nike SB 420 release and some other QS, but that couldn’t happen, and will most probably be online raffles now. Besides that, we are thinking of doing a delivery service within Hamburg. It was originally planned so that skaters could get boards and stuff, now that the weather is constantly nice - we don’t mind anyone ordering shoes as well, obviously!

Brooklyn Projects (Los Angeles, USA): With Brooklyn Projects, it has always been the experience of the shop itself, and the environment. It will be a challenge to create that online, but that’s the focus right now. Then it’s also planning on what’s coming next - talking to brands on what are we’re going to do together once we open to get some sort of normalcy going. Business will not be the same as it was pre-COVID 19. The retail landscape has changed forever, that I can tell you. Now it’s trying to figure out what it’s going to be like. People want to think that once it’s over, people are gonna want to come out and shop after being cooped up so long. However, most people have lost their jobs, so I think people use discretion on what they will buy, at least for the first year.

VegNonVeg (New Delhi, India): Our focus right now is to try to create unique digital content and experiences to keep our community engaged and growing. This includes live music gigs, art workshops, sneaker history, lacing tutorials, photography tutorials etc. We’re a relatively young company and community, so there’s a lot to do and learn. We’re also busy with future buys and are looking harder than ever at the customer and sales data. We’re using forecasting models to look at future scenarios to make sure we can anticipate how consumer behaviour will change or evolve. In essence, we’re working on being better and doing better.

Forecasting the Future of Sneaker Retail

Bodega (Boston, USA): Long-term, the sneaker scene will still dominate the world. This is just a road bump. We’ll keep growing and taking on more untapped markets, but with the principles of sustainability and compassion more in the forefront.

Overkill (Berlin, Germany): At present, maybe people are reflecting on themselves and their consumer behaviour. Maybe they’re gonna be more selective when buying sneakers in the future, and won’t be copping the fourth and fifth all-white classic sneaker. However, on the other side, I’m also pretty sure that when the global recession comes to an end, the regular capitalism will catch up with us again.

Latte (Lisbon, Portugal): The first thing that comes to mind is how camping and lines for certain drops will work - if at all. I believe it will be very different in the future. In Portugal, it won’t affect much, because it’s still very difficult for stores to have access to any type of tier 0, limited releases, and quick strikes, so camping is rare. In general, I believe that demand will continue for certain releases, if not increase due to all the limitations. However, in-store drop mechanics will surely change. We have definitely seen an increase in footwear sales so far, if that means anything.

Black Box (Rome, Italy): I think we will live two phases, one until the end of the year, and a second one in 2021 when we will really see what the real impact has been. It’s hard and sad to say, but I think in the future, we won’t have small players which are not financially strong. Suppliers already started this process a couple of years ago, in reducing the access point in the market, now this emergency has accelerated this process. Online will grow and grow, but beautiful retail stores are needed to connect with the local community.

Up There (Melbourne, Australia): The long-term affects are hard to predict – a lot will come down to how quickly the recovery is across the world. It’s a global community, so a quick recovery in Australia doesn’t mean that everything is on the way up. It will certainly push more business online, forcing them to offer a truly unique in-store experience to garner the consumer’s time and attention.

Foot District (Barcelona, Spain): It’s likely that the brands will release less models, and less frequently. This will directly impact on the quality of the products that are released. It will surely also impact us and our way of appreciating each piece, forgetting about the hype commercialisation, and stopping the cash-grabs.

Want to hear more from independent retailers? You can check out our exclusive series spotlighting their lives during lockdown. Read Part 1  here, Part 2  here, Part 3  here, Part 4  here, and Part 5  here. We'd like to thank all the retailers involved for taking part, and for sharing their stories. Stay safe, everyone!

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