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Nike is Losing Its Grip on the Teen Market

2017 is quickly becoming a year Nike Inc (NYSE: NKE) would rather forget. For the first time in a decade the Swoosh did not have the most popular sneaker in the U.S., losing the title to Adidas (NASDAQOTH: ADDYY) Superstar last year. The company continues to lose ground to Adidas, which passed the Jordan brand in U.S. sales in August.

Meanwhile, revenue growth was flat in Nike's most recent quarter, its worst performance since 2011, and earnings per share fell as the company faced a difficult comparison from the year before when the Summer Olympics and Euro Cup were both held.

In June, Nike said it would lay off 2% of its staff. It announced a restructuring and a new strategy called Consumer Direct Offense, which would focus on direct-to-consumer retail channels and bringing product to market more quickly.

Image source: Nike.

Now it seems like Nike may be losing its dominance on the key teen market, the next generation of consumers. According to Piper Jaffray's semi-annual Taking Stock with Teens survey, Nike was one of the biggest losers among apparel and footwear brands.

While Nike still took the #1 spot in the categories in which it competes, it lost significant mindshare in almost all of them, as summarized below.

  • Nike's share in apparel fell from 29% a year ago to 23%.
  • In footwear, Nike dropped from 51% to 46%, while Adidas rose from 6% to 11%.
  • Nike/Jordan dropped from 19% to 12% as the "top fashion trend for males."
  • Mindshare among females was steady, but down significantly among males.

Other key trends

Piper Jaffray noted that the most surprising result from the survey was "the stark decline of Nike" as Adidas achieved new highs. 

Beyond the headwinds that Nike specifically was facing, the survey also found that streetwear brands like Vans and Supreme were gaining popularity, replacing athleticwear like Nike. In general, Piper Jaffray said that large brands like Nike were losing popularity to smaller brands such as Supreme.

Under Armour (NYSE: UA) (NYSE: UAA) also continued to falter as it fell out of the top ten preferred apparel brands among upper-income males, and remained the #1 brand that males are no longer wearing.

In another sign that traditional streetwear is on the rise, Leggings/Lululemon (NASDAQ: LULU) fell from the top spot on female fashion with 25% mindshare a year ago, dropping to #5 with just 8% mindshare. Overall, the popularity of athletic apparel brands fell from 41% to 33%.

Where Nike goes from here

The results from Piper Jaffray's survey only confirm a trend that was already evident. Nike is losing market share to Adidas, and its styles, especially Jordans, are not hitting consumers as they once did.

Fortunately, Nike is making some changes to reinvigorate its brand. It recently opened a new design studio that offers shoppers custom-designed sneakers in 90 minutes. Nike is increasingly focusing on experience-based retailing, with its design studio and its new SoHo store providing interactive experiences that build customers' relationships with the brand. Nike plans to replicate that model with a similar focus in 12 major cities around the world.

Separately, the company is also kicking off an eight-year partnership with the NBA that includes the Nike logo on team jerseys, the first time such a logo has been displayed. The Swoosh is leveraging that new relationship with products like connected jerseys that give wearers exclusive access to video footage, gear, and a chance to win game tickets.

Such moves should help build some much-needed buzz for the brand, and the Consumer Direct Offense strategy looks promising. However, Nike won't reverse this trend overnight.  The growing popularity of streetwear and a resurgent Adidas mean the sneaker king may continue to lose market share before it regains it.

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Jeremy Bowman owns shares of Nike and Under Armour (C Shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Nike, Under Armour (A Shares), and Under Armour (C Shares). The Motley Fool recommends Lululemon Athletica. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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