LeBron X Jumps, but Not Past $300 is subtitled 'High-Tech Sneaker Will Cost $270; Nike Says Criticism Wasn't Factor in Price:'
Nike Inc.'s new LeBron X basketball shoes won't break the $300 mark after all—but they will still be among the most expensive sneakers ever released.
The Beaverton, Ore., footwear maker disclosed the official retail price of the sneaker on Thursday, saying the technology-embedded shoe will go on sale with a limited release starting Sept. 22 for $270.
A less expensive version that doesn't contain Nike+ sensors—which track how high players jump and how far they run—will sell for $180, it said.
The anticipated price of the shoe, named after Miami Heat basketball star LeBron James, spurred criticism from the National Urban League and some consumers after The Wall Street Journal, citing footwear analysts, reported that it could retail for more than $300.
The Urban League's president, Marc H. Morial, called Nike insensitive for raising sneaker prices at a time when many consumers were financially stretched during the back-to-school shopping season. He also decried outbreaks of violence and mayhem that have marred releases of some hyped Nike shoes.
Nike declined to respond to the National Urban League's comments. The company said general criticism over the shoe's price wasn't a factor in setting the final price for the LeBron X.
"The price hadn't been set yet and people were reacting to something that isn't accurate," said Nike spokeswoman Mary Remuzzi.
Still, the $270 LeBron X shoe remains the sneaker series' most expensive version yet. Earlier this year, Nike sold the LeBron 9 PS Elite for $250 and a lesser-expensive LeBron 9 for $170.
Nike sold the first shoe in the LeBron series, the Nike Air Zoom Generation, for $110 back in 2003.
"This is still the single most expensive commercial pair of shoes they've ever sold," said Matt Powell, an analyst at sporting goods researcher SportsOneSource.
He noted that Nike has surpassed the price with limited-edition sneakers, including a snakeskin version of its famous Air Force One sneaker that sold for $2,500 in honor of the shoe's 25th anniversary.
To offset shrinking profit margins, Nike has been systematically raising shoe and clothing prices by 5% to 10% as its labor, materials and shipping costs increase. It is counting on its strong brand to carry it through a period when many shoppers are looking for discounts and turning to layaway offers to afford big-ticket items. . . .
To curb crowds at its popular midnight releases, which encouraged people to camp outside stores, ... the company now requires (retailers) to open their doors during new releases at 8 a.m. on Saturdays and prohibits retailers from advertising new sneaker models ahead of their official release dates."
With the price of clothing, food and fuel climbing and the economy quite weak, it will be interesting to see how successful Nike's strategy to systematically increase prices will be.
In the end, of course, consumers will decide. But it's worth watching for clues to the consumer's behavior and any insight it may give us concerning the outlook for retail sales in the upcoming holiday season.
Food and fuel are necessities, of course, while expensive basketball sneakers are obviously highly discretionary purchases.
At least I always thought that to be the case. We'll see what happens with LeBron X and the rest of Nike's new shoe offerings.