In 2013 ASICS Americas' segment surpassed the European segment in net sales, an accomplishment that was repeated in 2014. While both segments experienced significant growth in 2014, it’s clear that ASICS' focus is on continued growth in the Americas. Given that ASICS readily acknowledges the primary driver of its American growth come from its running sneakers (ASICS Annual Report, 2014), it should come as no surprise that ASICS has officially launched ASICS Tiger, their rebranded and (hopefully) repositioned sports luxury line targeted at the American streetwear market.
The American streetwear market is one that Nike (NikeLab/21 Mercer), Adidas (Consortium) and New Balance have all successfully targeted in the last 5-10 years, and for good reason; the streetwear consumer is willing to spend far more than the average consumer. In a market that’s as saturated as the footwear market, a niche that comes with potentially limitless margin growth might as well be the Holy Grail.
Authenticity and quality are two critical hallmarks of the streetwear market, with quality playing an incrementally larger role. You need only look at Nike’s complete "remastering" of their Jordan line to understand the importance of a high quality product in the American market. Despite continued and almost always immediate product sellouts and a thriving secondary market, Nike understood how imperative a high quality product is to today, and more importantly tomorrow’s streetwear consumer.
Undoubtedly what makes the desire to produce high quality products so provocative to companies like Nike is the fact that streetwear consumers are willing to spend significantly more for them; the consumer’s level of education these days is so high, that they are willing to spend top dollar for a product that is top notch. How much more are they willing to spend? New Balance released no less than 8 inline lifestyle sneakers (not including collaborations) at price points higher than $200, and the most talked about aspects of these sneakers wasn’t the price, rather it was the attention to detail and second-to-none quality of each individual pair. If the thriving secondary market of sneakers is an indicator of anything, it’s that the focus of today’s streetwear consumer is on the perceived value of a shoe, not it’s cost. Quality is undoubtedly the fastest growing, and perhaps the largest factor, in the consumer’s determination of a product’s perceived value.
All of this brings us back to the ASICS launch of ASICS Tiger and it’s targeting of the American streetwear market. ASICS consistent collaborations with the likes of KITH, Concepts, UNDFTD and other top American lifestyle retailers, in conjunction with their brand’s storied history, will very likely resonate with the streetwear consumer’s perception of authenticity. In fact there is very little question of ASICS and Onitsuka Tiger’s place in the pantheon of sneaker history. The challenge that ASICS Tiger faces in the American streetwear market lies in their ability to differentiate themselves from brands that resonate as every bit as authentic (such as Nike, New Balance and Adidas), when quality is separating itself from the pack as the most important differentiator.
Given Nike and Jordan Brand’s investment in quality improvement, New Balance’s American and English factories whose craftsmen routinely produce sneakers of the highest quality, and Adidas’s willingness to doggedly pursue (read: spend like it’s going out of style) Nike in any and every market (not to mention Saucony and Diadora, smaller brands that have begun entrenching themselves in the streetwear market, or Reebok and Puma, former heavyweights that still pack a punch), ASICS Tiger has a difficult, but traversable road ahead.
Images via: HB