New Steph Curry sneakers may give Under Armour a needed boost

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland – Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry’s latest signature shoe, the Curry 4, is expected by shoe and business experts to help Baltimore-based Under Armour recover from recent financial losses.

The sports apparel company, headquartered in Baltimore, has experienced more than a 50 percent decline in stock price in the past year, and their financial reports show a $12.3 million net loss in the last quarter, which ended June 30.

After three poorly received iterations of Curry’s signature sneaker, the company may have finally created a shoe that resonates with customers and will boost sales.

Curry, a two-time Most Valuable Player, is one of the most popular athletes in the world. The 29-year-old’s jersey has been the most sold in the league for the past two seasons, according to the NBA.

Under Armour’s recent losses could be attributed to concerns about Curry re-signing with the company when his contract expires in 2024, Johns Hopkins University economics professor Ricard Gil said. The prospect of Curry leaving the company without a marketable basketball star could be scaring some investors, Gil said.

The most basic shoe, which debuts for the public on Friday, will retail for $130 in a black-and-white color scheme. That’s a reduction from Curry’s last shoe, which  retailed for $140.

Curry first wore the “4’s” during the Warriors’ victory in Game Three of the 2017 NBA Finals. He has sported various styles of the shoe in the months since the championship.

Sales begin Friday morning once stores open across the nation, and stores are recommending that customers arrive by opening hours if they want to ensure that their size is in stock. Under Armour stores in Annapolis and Bethesda expect to be sold out by Saturday afternoon, sales associates said.

Under Armour’s limited edition More Rings Championship Pack, which includes two pairs of sneakers in wooden boxes, two pairs of socks, and letter from Curry tucked inside a cigar holder, went on sale Oct. 17 at a list price if $400, but the limited supply quickly sold out. On Wednesday afternoon, some were for sale on eBay for more than $1,000, likely via pre-order resellers.

The high resale price indicates that the shoes could generate more interest, and revenue, than the previous editions, business professors said. Sneaker fans and employees at various Under Armour stores said they have already experienced more interest surrounding the Curry 4 than past models.

“This is definitely a better-looking pair of sneakers and a certain step in the right direction,” Dee Wells, cofounder of Obsessive Sneaker Disorder, told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. “His previous shoes got roasted online. And rightfully so.”

Curry’s second pair of sneakers have been described as “dad, grandpa, and nurse shoes,” said Jordan Geller, founder of the Shoezeum, in San Diego.

The latest from Under Armour borrows elements from the first two editions of the shoe, bringing a more fun feeling, Wells said: The Curry 3 felt too much like “golf shoes” while the Curry 2 wasn’t youthful and didn’t appeal to younger generations, Wells said.

The Curry 1 wasn’t mocked mercilessly online, but it was a basic design that didn’t excite fans, Wells said.

While the shoes are made for athletic purposes, most men wear these shoes casually for fashion purposes, said Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.

For years, Under Armour has been praised for their sneaker technology and performance, but their fashion sense has been lagging, shoe experts said.

For the shoes to be as successful as Michael Jordan’s, though, Under Armour must have Curry’s signature shoes reflect their namesake’s personality and story.

“You have to see that personality coming through,” Wells said. “Every shoe has to have a story.”

After Nike debuted Air Jordans on Nov. 18, 1984, their company took off and stock prices doubled in only two years. Curry could potentially revolutionize Under Armour in the same way that Jordan helped Nike’s business boom, Semmelhack said.

Since then, more than 30 Air Jordan designs have been released. The Jordan sneaker brand had an estimated $3 billion in sales in 2015 and it was estimated that Jordan sneakers accounted for 8 percent of Nike’s total revenue that year, according to Forbes.

With an improved product, the new shoes could boost sales domestically, but also in China, where Curry is beloved. Curry is the second-most popular NBA player in China, behind only Kobe Bryant, according to Mailman, a digital sports marketing company in China.

This summer was the third straight year that Curry has taken a trip to China with Under Armour. Even a version of his latest shoe, the More Magic, is inspired by The Bund in Shanghai.

“There’s a 1.5 billion-person market ready for them,” Gil said. “Curry is beloved there, so of course China represents an opportunity for Under Armour.”

Under Armour, which began as an apparel company, only released their first running sneaker in 2008. They began making basketball shoes shortly after signing Brandon Jennings that year to be the first face of their basketball division.

Companies such as Nike and Adidas had decades of experience before Under Armour even began crafting footwear, so Under Armour’s mere presence in the conversation with those companies is flattering to them, said Geller.

“Nike has had 45 years of hits and instant sell outs,” Geller said. “Nike can just release retro models and people will buy them. Under Armour doesn’t have any of that.”

While some shoe experts are doubtful that Under Armour will ever overtake Nike in the basketball sneaker industry, some business professors aren’t counting out Under Armour.

“I can remember back when Puma and Adidas dominated footwear, so there’s always an opportunity,” said Peter Lorenzi, management professor at Loyola University-Maryland. “There is certainly room for change within the leisure and sports apparel industry.”

Capital News Service is a student-staffed news wire and broadcast news service operated by the University of Maryland’s Merrill College of Journalism. © 2017 Capital News Service. All Rights Reserved.

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