Is Nike’s new subscription program for kids a parent’s best friend?

Photo: Nike
Aug 13, 2019
George Anderson

Nike Adventure Club is the athletic brand’s first subscription service designed for kids. Nike is promoting the service, which launched yesterday, as “a parent’s best friend.” Nike promises to help parents put the correct size shoes on their kids (60 percent of all people, walk around with improperly fitted shoes) and enable them to keep up with the rapidly changing tastes of these young consumers.

“In providing footwear, we’re always trying to answer, ‘What do kids want,’” Dominique Shortell, director of product experience and retention for Nike Adventure Club, said in a statement. “But an equally important question is, ‘What kind of experience are we providing for their parents?’ We want to make shopping for footwear as convenient as possible for them.”

The Adventure Club offers 100 different sneaker styles in sizes 4C to 7Y, which roughly aligns with kids between the ages of two and 10. Members have three different subscription options, which range from receiving four pairs of sneakers per year up to 12. The cost for each of the options is $20, $30 or $50 a month. Reuters reports that parents can save up to $50 on each pair or almost nothing, depending on which Nike or Converse shoe they select.

The biggest challenge in the process, according to Nike, is getting the right shoe fit. The brand is including a refrigerator magnet sizing chart with the subscription box. A pilot of the program run by Nike found only a small percentage of parents ordered the wrong size. The test involved 10,000 members.

“We see Nike Adventure Club sits as having a unique place within Nike, and not just for it being the first sneaker club for kids,” said Dave Cobban, general manager of Nike Adventure Club. “It provides a wide range of options for kids, while at the same time, it removes a friction point for parents who are shopping on their behalf.”

Nike is looking to create a brand relationship with kids that it believes it can maintain throughout their lives. First, however, it will need to keep parents and kids satisfied with its Adventure Club offering. A McKinsey & Co. study published last year, CNBC reports, found that, while subscription services have grown 100 percent annually since 2013, nearly 40 percent of those who have joined a program have later cancelled. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you expect that the Nike Adventure Club will be a success or a failure? Would keeping kids happy in a subscription program make them more likely to stay with the brand throughout their lives?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"This removes purchasing friction, builds predictable supply flow/sales, and no company knows their customers better than Nike -- so kids will get the on-trend kicks they love!"
"Buying a child shoes is about more than fashion. As a parent I would pass on this one."
"Nike Adventure Club is a luxury service that will appeal to a narrow niche audience ... points for creativity and it may succeed with parents who have more money than time..."

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22 Comments on "Is Nike’s new subscription program for kids a parent’s best friend?"

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Mark Ryski

This is an interesting offering and I give it better than even odds of being successful. Unlike many subscription services that encourage consumption for the sake of it, the Nike offering provides a direct consumer benefit by providing an ongoing way for kids to always have the right size (and style) shoes. For some parents, this will be a meaningful benefit. For Nike, this will capture new consumers early in life and hopefully build strong brand loyalty as the children grow up.

Paula Rosenblum

This is an interesting offer and has lots of positive attributes for time-starved moms and their kids. Do I think it will engender brand loyalty? I don’t know. Gap Kids didn’t seem to do that ultimately.

The other thing I worry about is how quickly kids’ shoe sizes change as they are growing up. And the growth seems to come in spurts. I am not sure how Nike is going to mitigate this challenge, really — and if it involves returning the shoes, they might lose the “time-saver” advantage.

But overall, I like it.

Art Suriano

I see this as a great idea with a short life span. For starters, it’s a bit expensive. Moreover, unless parents are buying many pairs of sneakers in the course of a year, there’s not much value. We’re living in a world today that has subscriptions for almost everything, and quickly they add up. Consumers are starting to take notice of how much they are paying a month, not for a single subscription but their total. These high monthly costs will begin to change the success of many subscription programs. Nike is on the right track wanting to lock in kids to their brand, and the subscription concept is good, but the program needs a lot more value and opportunities for the members beyond just buying shoes. 

Shawn Harris

This is brilliant! This removes purchasing friction for parents, builds predictable supply flow and sales for Nike, and no company knows their customers better than Nike — so kids will get the on-trend kicks they love!

Ben Ball

I don’t know if it will be successful, but it is a brilliant marketing move to truly lock consumers into Nike from cradle to grave — or at least until the parents stop paying the bills. Subscriptions sound great until you figure out you aren’t using the product at the rate you thought you would and packages start piling up. That may be the foible of this service as well, as I tend to think of sneakers as being more durable than four to twelve pairs a year — even for fast growing kids.

Bob Amster

I found that certain (few) shoe brands fit me perfectly. If Nike fits the child perfectly, then the worry is over; stick to the brand that fits you best. If the subscription model removes the need to always be replacing children’s shoes, then this plan will stick, but only with those customers that fit the two criteria. I am sure that Nike is not for everyone.

Michael Decker

I have serious reservations here as I think the variables for the successful fit (both size and styles) are too great for “subscription.” Shoe fit is particularly important during the toddler years. Shoe style is particularly important to tweens. And the 12 pairs a year model (for kids) is just absurd. I suspect early adopters will give it a try and deliver initial success for Nike but this will soon peter out as busy moms (and dads) wake up after eight months and say “What was I thinking?”

Ian Percy

Thank you Michael. You spoke the truth much more graciously than I.

David Weinand

Interesting concept for parents that have the money for this type of offering. It’s expensive, IMO. However, Nike definitely has the cachet to build brand loyalty early on and if a kid is wearing 3-4 pairs of shoes/year, that’s a great first step to getting them hooked.

Rich Kizer

Just a thought: what happens when or if the the children find a different shoe other than Nike (God forbid that happens) that is the new rage? This program is probably a great attempt to “show the love” for the children and, at the same time, “lock in” sure sales.

Heidi Sax

The kids segment is the ideal segment for the growing rental economy — kids’ shoe sizes are ever-changing and their shoes tend to take a beating as they wear them. But Nike will have to work out some kinks. It’s not inexpensive, even at the lowest tier. And I wonder how easy they’ll make shipping when you need to size up or down. Convenience will be key and parents can’t invest time on the computer or on the phone and shipping packages back-and-forth. It’s hard to imagine this will have a meaningful impact on creating lifelong brand-loyalists. Does anyone really wear the same shoe brand they wore as a tyke into the teenage years and then adulthood?

Rob Gallo

It will make sense for a niche group of customers if Nike can get the fit equation correct and minimize returns. I think it’s a smart move to focus on kids ages two to 10. Kids older than that are more likely to be swayed by current fashion trends (which isn’t always Nike) and could result in cancellations when the kids don’t want to wear what Nike sends.

Jeff Sward

I especially like the “need” driven aspect of this initiative versus the “want” portion. I was deeply involved in a couple of kids businesses and there is a segment of the business where mom or grandma is the customer. Growing toddlers need new shoes and mom will do the style selecting for a while. When the boy or girl actually becomes the customer, the “want” becomes more complicated, but the “need” remains. “Need” provides more predictability than “want.”

Ian Percy
Twelve pairs of sneakers a year? A new pair every month? The cheapest option is spending $240 a year on runners? Seriously? Has parenting become driven by “what kids want?” And shopping for what your kids NEED is a “friction point?” I guess “hand-me-downs” are a thing of the past too, are they? Does Nike really think this will generate brand loyalty? If the kids at school are suddenly into a different brand of runner with a horse logo and “Old Town Road” across the toes, they will kiss Nike goodbye. These days kids are more fickle about fashion than adults. Heck, a “brand” meant “which one was cheapest” when I was a kid. I’m sorry, I guess one never gets past how they themselves were raised. We all love our kids more than life and enjoy getting them special things they want. But there are values and lessons in old-fashioned parenting that I’d hate to see totally abandoned. Like gratitude. Like actual communication between parent and child. Shopping with your kids can deepen your… Read more »
Brandon Rael

The struggle is real, especially with two young kids whose feet relentlessly keep growing! This is a brilliant move by Nike to not only drive engagement but establish more predictable recurring revenue via subscription services.

Retail merchandising magic is all about the blending of art and science to drive outstanding customer experiences.

However, the science part of the equation has to be equally matched by the right products and merchandising drops that will meet the needs of Nike’s extremely loyal customer base. Ultimately it will come down to the execution side, especially when the Nike customer is navigating across and shopping in multiple channels for their children’s sneakers.

Georganne Bender

Buying your kid’s shoes is a friction point? More like an important necessity. The Nike Adventure Club is a great idea – in theory.

One of the best things I was told as a new parent was to take my child to a shoe store to be measured for proper fitting shoes. We did, and the tradition continues as our grandson goes to Nordstrom to be fitted. Shoes are important.

Sure, Nike will be able to provide cool kicks for kids, but will they actually fit the way they are supposed to fit? Buying a child shoes is about more than fashion. As a parent I would pass on this one.

Ricardo Belmar

Brilliant marketing move for Nike to try and build brand loyalty at an early age with kids, and with their parents for increased lifetime value. I’m sure there is an expectation (and data to go with it — this is Nike after all!) that if parents subscribe to this for their kids they will be more likely to buy Nike sneakers for themselves.

But is there true value for the parents paying a minimum of $240 per year for 4 kids sneakers? For certain parents who already adhere to the Nike brand story, this may be a winner (4 pairs a year for $60 each), but for many others, I suspect this won’t look like a great deal for kids who outgrow shoe sizes faster than parents can spell s-n-e-a-k-e-r!

This will appeal to those parents who already like Nike shoes, and crave the added convenience the subscription brings them to avoid needing to visit the store to buy new kids shoes. For those that crave a value price — not so much.

Josh Clouser

Nike continues to pursue strengthening brand loyalty. Apart from the more obvious convenience incentive, This may be a hard sell to the average family who see kids shoes as a commodity. Nike has the potential to attract young sneakerhead families if they were to create a focused option of exclusive releases for Adventure Club members. This would help differentiate their service from a consumer’s ability to purchase the mass market shoe at will.

Shikha Jain
Overall fantastic idea. Why does this work for the parents? Employs principles of the sharing economy for the right segment – children naturally grow out of shoes at a quick pace vs. adults who have a different needs or occasion in mind (collection/replacement, use case like running). Increases affordability. Allowing parents who might not be inclined to purchase a new pair every time their kids show signs of growing. Why does this work for Nike? They have just increased their customer lifetime value. At the middle price point where most will likely gravitate, the annual price for a subscription is $360 ($30 * 12) which is likely far greater than if Nike relied on individual transactions twice or even three times a year. Increasing goodwill and social capital. Happy parents and happy children will increase the favorability that consumers will have for the Nike brand and create halo effects to other parts of their business. Drive customer engagement and increase loyalty. If all your kid’s shoes needs are coming from one brand, there’s really not… Read more »
Mohamed Amer

Brands are experimenting with subscriptions to get more certainty around future revenues. Ideal products are consumer essentials with predictable usage patterns — for each consumer and in the aggregate for brands. The downside is that these programs identify upfront the monetary commitment, elevates consumer awareness of the overall cost while creating a perception of being “locked-in” to the decision.

Nike is certainly addressing these with variable monthly rates, easy returns, immediate shipments of new shoes, and flexibility in number of sneakers received over a fixed period. They’re making it super convenient (time savings) and easy to participate in the program. By partnering with KaBoom to create content and activities in each box, Nike is enhancing the brand value for parents and kids. Donating the returned used sneakers will further boost Nike’s cache on key dimensions of corporate responsibility and sustainability.

This is a good experiment with a solid targeted segment and is likely to get tweaked overtime so it best serves both consumers and company.

James Tenser

Nike Adventure Club is a luxury service that will appeal to a narrow niche audience. It wins points for creativity and it may succeed with some parents who have more money than time, but I imagine many of their kids will be indifferent.

For the families that can afford $240 — $600 a year for several kids, I am skeptical that the Club will be their only way of buying footwear. Less upscale households will likely find better ways to get their kicks.

Craig Sundstrom

I suppose I should restrict my response to the brand aspects of this (i.e. the questions actually asked), but if this were, say a “subscription service” for some sugar-laden cereal — or (for adults) a cigarette brand — would we be so complacent?

Back to the question: I think it will bring mixed results: there are plenty of reasons to become attracted to another brand, even if you’re wedded to your current one.

"This removes purchasing friction, builds predictable supply flow/sales, and no company knows their customers better than Nike -- so kids will get the on-trend kicks they love!"
"Buying a child shoes is about more than fashion. As a parent I would pass on this one."
"Nike Adventure Club is a luxury service that will appeal to a narrow niche audience ... points for creativity and it may succeed with parents who have more money than time..."

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