Adidas and Foot Locker on Tuesday said that beginning this month, they will co-create consumer-inspired Adidas Made For (AM4) shoes across the U.S. at various cultural events and sport moments throughout the year. It's the brand's first retail partnership in the AM4 effort, according to a press release from the companies.
The effort leverages Adidas' robotic Speedfactory manufacturing, a "digital production process that can create limited runs of shoes with designs sourced from creators in local communities up to 36 times faster than industry standard production times," according to the release.
Limited-edition AM4ATL shoes and cleats made their official debut on the feet of some pro football players on Monday in Orlando, Florida, and will be available Jan. 28 for $200 at adidas.com. Limited-edition AM4ATL running shoes will be available Jan. 28 for $200 online at adidas.com, footlocker.com, champssports.com and eastbay.com. They will also be available in select Atlanta-area Foot Locker and Champs Sports stores, according to the release.
Through the Adidas Speedfactory, the brand and the retailer can devise limited inventory that's likely to sell, all the while garnering key data about consumer preferences, according to Matt Powell, NPD group vice president and senior industry adviser of sports.
Adidas executives have previously said that the Speedfactory process yields just 50,000 or so shoes each year, according to various press reports in 2016 and 2017. But, its speed and attention to detail about what shoppers want in their shoes provide particulars that could go into shoe designs to be manufactured more widely, Powell said. Plus, the limited edition aspect could help feed the stream of sneaker resale, where prices float higher when items are more rare, he said.
"Speedfactory can make only 50,000 pairs of shoes, so it's going to be relatively small impact of the number of shoes that they're going to make there," he told Retail Dive in an interview. "However, they presumably are going to learn a lot about what the customer wants and can evaluate that over time and make more shoes like this in a more conventional way."
Indeed, the "AM4 project is in a constant BETA mode, with insights taken from consumers following each product launch used to shape future designs," the companies say in their release. That could help Foot Locker with one of its nagging issues. The retailer spent much of 2018 grappling with an inventory overload in the U.S. and Europe, but executives in November noted that they're getting a grip on that in both places. As of Nov. 3, the retailer's merchandise inventories fell 0.6% year over year to $1.3 billion, a 0.5% increase in constant currency, according to a press release on the company's third quarter results.
"We are very focused on our inventory discipline across the geographies, across the banners and we feel good about the freshness heading into the holiday season," CFO Lauren Peters said on a Nov. 20 call with analysts, according to a transcript from The Motley Fool. "[W]e read and react, we feel good about where we are heading into the season."
Speedfactory, meanwhile, allows the retailer to both read and react with more speed and more information. "We are excited about the endless product opportunities that our adidas SPEEDFACTORY partnership unlocks," Andrew Gray, Foot Locker, North America VP and chief merchandising officer, said in a statement. "At Foot Locker we are focused on continuing to strengthen our connection to local communities. This initiative allows us to get closer to market and deliver products that are created from local and cultural insights to engage and excite our customers."