Too Many Boots Pt. 1

Too many boots, too few customers.

At a glance it seems as if we are living in one of the best points in time when it comes to football boot releases. There are so many models and options on the market it seems as if anyone can find a boot for themselves with even the easiest of searches. However, having so many boots on the market can hurt boot buyers.

One of the biggest issues with the number of boots on the market is that they are mostly coming from the big 3 brands (Nike, Adidas and Puma) and in a lot of places its hard to find alternatives. Some might think alternatives to the big brands don’t seem that important or necessary. I would argue that the big brands stifle competition because they release so much product. In years past there would only be two or three colourways in a certain boot released every year. These days, we are seeing new colourway releases almost every two months, and this is not even counting limited edition releases.

All of these Mercurials came out within 3 months of each other!

There are even more reasons that the big brands flood the market in this way. Sometimes it is just to drown out the competition, so it seems as if there is no other choice out there other than the big 3. Other times it is in order to justify an investment in a technology or to sell a technology that was created by the company. The longer you produce the same tech and the more you increase sales of products that use that tech, the more you recoup and gain on your initial investment. This is the reason we see the same soleplates used for multiple different models of the same boot. The soleplate (or tooling as it’s also called) is one of the most expensive pieces of a boot to manufacture. So normally brands stretch out how long a single soleplate is used for.

A good example of this would be the Tiempo Legend 7s and Tiempo Legend 8s sharing the same soleplate. This is also why the recent re-release of the original Total 90 Lasers was using the same soleplate that the HV Phantom 3 used. Many smaller brands like Ryal, RetroStar Classic, Akuna Cinquestella (I could go on) all use the same or similar tooling. Brands save money on the tooling of a boot so that they can do drastic changes more to the uppers. In my opinion, I think that this is the only way we can expect brands to make re-releases of classic boots because if they wanted to reproduce the boot exactly the same as the originals then spending the money on the tooling would cut too much into their profit margins.

One will notice that I referred to profit margins there instead the cost of the consumer. Brands are still all too aware that there is a price ceiling that is difficult to go past. That is not to say that brands don’t want to go past this point, because in recent years they have all definitely been pushing prices upwards but they are still aware that if the get over-eager then they will have trouble with sales. We’ve seen this before with the Mercurial Superfly 2s and 3s. These models retailed for an eye-watering $400 back when they released. Of course, the fact that the boots themselves were not all that great and that they released around the time of 2008 market crash didn’t help things either.

But to get back on track, the most important thing to a company is how much money they are making off a certain product, and if they don’t need to develop new tooling that allows them to get a better return on investment. This isn’t to say we should be completely cynical and tell ourselves its all about the money, as I have met many people and seen many interviews with industry insiders who are passionate and proud of the work they do, but we should always remember that for many companies, profit is the end goal.

The other issue that has risen over the past 10-odd years is retailers being forced to order a certain amount of product. In the industry these are called allocations. The biggest companies use this to force retailers to carry a certain quantity of stock. This isn’t always necessarily a bad thing but often it leads to increased risk on the part of the retailers. Other times it limits the retailer from ordering an amount of product they deem appropriate. I have had first-hand experiences with both issues, sometimes running out of a product that was hot and wasn’t allowed to order any more of that shoe. The first Magista Obra was one of the worst times this happened. Nike wanted the boot to be super limited, so we got less than 30 pairs for 5 store locations. They were gone in days and because of that we had a lot of angry customers. The opposite issue I had was when we knew the Superfly 3 was on its last 2 colourways before being killed off and we were told to bring in over 100 pairs. We couldn’t sell the stock we had, and they wanted us to bring in more! Adidas and Puma have also engaged in similar practices so while they are by no means innocent either, they have not been as rage-inducing.

Now I have been bashing Nike a bit so I’m going to also give them plenty of credit where it’s due. There have been several times, for example some of the colourway launches of the Superfly 4, when we had wanted to bring in a lot more product than was offered to us through allocation, but because we were limited, we sold through our stock and were almost clean by the time the next colourways launched. I will also give credit to Nike for “slimming” down their offerings. For example, even though the collar is much maligned (and honestly, rightly so) on the Phantom Vision, I’m happy Nike stuck to its guns and only offered one version at the high-end price points. Similar to this is what they’ve done with the Phantom Venom by not offering a collared version of it at all. Now if they could only change the name of the boots so it isn’t so customers don’t constantly get confused between that and the Phantom Venoms.

Competition in the marketplace helps force companies to be more creative. Some of the smaller companies may burn bright for a short while and then disappear (Pele Sports, remember them?) but others are able to enter the market and make a space for themselves. Mizuno is a great example of this. They’re not wanting to dominate the market but rather they cater to people who want something different with high quality and because of this they have carved out a little niche in the market for themselves. And I would love to see more small brands take a bigger chunk out of the market for so that there is more competition overall.

Check out Part 2 of this article!

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