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'There’s just so much energy around the sneaker market:' Footlocker CEO on company's growth

Reggie Wade
·Writer
·3-min read
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The past year stretched many retailers to their limits due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Foot Locker (FL) is not just surviving but thriving, with its stock price more than doubling since April 2020. Foot Locker Chairman & CEO Richard Johnson joined Yahoo Finance to discuss how the brand came out of 2020 stronger than it went in and its plans for 2021 and beyond.

“Consumers always get to make the decision on where they’re going to shop and how they want to shop. So our job is to create the best engagement possible with the consumer and bring the best storytelling, the best content, the best customer connections that we can. We like the way that we serve customers, our customers really truly like the way we serve them,” Johnson told Yahoo Finance.

One way that Foot Locker is serving its customers is through its FLX rewards program. Launched on February 4, 2020, the membership program merged Foot Locker’s subsidiaries — Lady Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Footaction, Eastbay, and Champs — into one. FLX customers are rewarded with points that they can use towards prizes and merchandise each time they shop. Johnson tells Yahoo Finance that the year-old program has already amassed 17 million members.

Footlocker, Nottingham City Centre. (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)
Footlocker, Nottingham City Centre. (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Being in the trenches of the athletic-wear market day in and day out, Johnson has a healthy respect for the sneaker game and all that comes with it. This is why the retailer invested so heavily in the ever-so hot secondary sneaker market. In 2019 the brand made a $100 million investment in online sneaker marketplace GOAT. Despite the major investment, Johnson tells Yahoo Finance that there must be a line of demarcation between the primary and secondary markets. This is especially important as many sneakerheads feel like securing their favorite pair of kicks could be an exercise of futility.

“We continue to work with the team out of GOAT. They’ve got a great customer interface. They work really hard on the authentication process. We invested in GOAT to understand the capabilities in the platform that they operate in the secondary market, but we absolutely know that we have to have a line between the secondary market and the primary market, or we lose credibility with our customers,” he said.

A Foot Locker employee retrieves boxes of Kanye West's Yeezy shoes in King of Prussia mall on Black Friday, a day that kicks off the holiday shopping season, in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, U.S., on November 29, 2019. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger
A Foot Locker employee retrieves boxes of Kanye West's Yeezy shoes in King of Prussia mall on Black Friday, a day that kicks off the holiday shopping season, in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, U.S., on November 29, 2019. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

“So we support the GOAT business. We look at them to understand how the customer transacts in that secondary market, but our real energy and our focus is on driving our primary connection with our customer to win in the primary market.”

When it comes to which shoes Foot Locker customers are clamoring for, Johnson tells Yahoo Finance Nike’s (NKE) Jordan brand and Adidas' (ADDYY) Yeezy are still the usual suspects.

“I think both of those silhouettes continue to bring heat to the marketplace ... We think that they both add tremendous energy. Brand Jordan is incredibly hot right now, the right Yeezy silhouette is incredibly hot right now, and I think that there’s just so much energy around the sneaker market … they both are still driving a lot of heat and a lot of excitement around our customers.

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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