Is the Sneaker Industry Destined for Collapse?

As general releases and repetitive collaborations continue to sit on shelves, EDITED examines the future of sneaker culture.

Footwear 
18,694 Hypes

Over the last twelve months, it’s no secret that sneaker culture has experienced one of the most dramatic shifts in recent memory. The hype has faded, and general releases have replaced sought-after drops due to oversaturated collaborations and repetitive colorways. While limited innovation has failed to deliver exciting footwear designs, mainstream markets have been flooded with renewed heritage models — from the New Balance 550 to the Nike Dunk Low.

Retail Intelligence Platform EDITED has peeked into the past and present, looking to understand the falling demand in modern-day sneaker culture. It begs the question: is the sneaker industry destined for collapse?

Trend-driven Gen-Z consumers have replaced creativity with popular styles that increase sell-out rates of readily available models that align with general dressing standards. Take the Nike Dunk Low, for example. While excitement first returned on the hardwood, young generations quickly took note, generating overwhelming demand that skyrocketed after-market terrains and tripled resell prices.

Various colorways were rarely in stock at international retailers, with Nike experiencing 19% sell-out rates in 2021, which rose to 33% at the Dunk Low’s peak in 2023 – but subsequent overproduction has since caused three-quarters of stock to remain unsold following the trend’s short-lived tumble.

The adidas Gazelle is another popular sneaker igniting retro hysteria – but with 65% of pairs flying off shelves three years ago, there is now 600% leftover stock of the model in 2023.

Slow-performing collaborations have also placed the industry under a monotonous spotlight, cementing eventful sneaker raffles as a thing of the past. The downfall can be accredited to rising price points, with luxury link-ups, such as the Gucci x adidas Gazelle and the Miu Miu x New Balance 574, undergoing drastic increases. The latter is marked 637% higher than the average 574 release, arriving for a pricey £700 GBP. While initially turning heads upon release, the collaborations have continued to sit on shelves and clash with modern-day inflation and consumer spending habits.

Crocs has never lost touch with its youthful side and became the most prevalent collaborator of 2023. While its resin-built slippers have constantly baffled footwear connoisseurs, Crocs embraced its fun-filled identity and launched dozens of collaborations that kept its finger on the trigger of virality. From McDonald’s deep-fried Classic Clog to Feng Chen Wang‘s platformed hybrid, Crocs satisfied demand while embracing its trending status with eye-catching ploys.

Despite the downfall of hyped launches and collaborative projects, German data platform Statista has predicted that the global sneaker market will grow dramatically in the next four years, estimating a 5.18% leap from 2024 to 2028.

Sneaker culture has settled into a cyclical period of slow growth, but brand titans like Nike, adidas, and New Balance will continue to be aggressive with innovation. In 2024, Nike is turning a corner with the Air Max DN, packing the new silhouette with four-tubed Air units and Dynamic Air technology — a significant milestone for the Air Max line.

Salomon, adidas and New Balance continue to produce exciting collaborations with RANRA, CLOT, and Junya Watanabe MAN respectively, kicking off the year by supplying interesting twists on influential silhouettes. In contrast, the continued popularity of brands once dismissed as ugly, such as ASICS, ON, and Salomon, continue to eat into the audience of bigger global brands.

You can read EDITED’s full report here.

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