What a Surprise Nike Drop Says About the Future of the Snap Store and the Sneaker Release


The Snap Store has only been around for a few weeks but it’s already partnered up with Nike to score a major exclusive during a high-profile event.

Over the NBA All-Star Weekend, Nike dropped the limited-edition Air Jordan 3 “Tinker” shoe through the Snap Store, in partnership with Shopify’s e-commerce technology, and delivered it same day via Darkstore, a startup that aims to be the “Airbnb of fulfillment centers.” It’s the first time a brand other than Snapchat has sold merchandise through the Snap Store, which launched on Feb. 1.

Nike fueled demand for the Jordan brand shoes by making them available only to attendees of an All-Star Game after party. To unlock the experience, attendees used their smartphones to scan a Snap code that directed them to the product in the Snap Store, where they had the option of completing the purchase. Darkstore delivered the sought-after sneakers by 10:30 p.m. Reports indicate that the shoes sold out in 23 minutes.

“This is the Holy Grail of the experience [Nike is] trying to intend, which is direct to consumer—to the actual consumer, versus a bot—and same-day delivery,” Darkstore CEO Lee Hnetinka told TechCrunch. “The Snap code introduces a new paradigm for commerce.”

Sneaker releases have long been an experiential affair. Walk past a Foot Locker, Nike store or some other sporting goods shop on launch day, and there’s bound to be a round-the-block queue packed with dedicated, brand-bedecked fans. “Sneakerheads” love being the first to get their hands on the latest new shoe, especially when the product was made in limited quantities. Exclusivity is its own cachet. The bragging rights are worth the wait.

This isn’t the first time Nike has reconsidered the “experience” aspect of connecting consumers with kicks. Late last year the retailer unveiled a New York City pop-up “Sneakeasy,” in exclusive partnership with Foot Locker, that gave visitors a sneak peak of what lies ahead for the Nike and Jordan brands. The first sneaker launched at the Sneakeasy was initially available for reservation through the Foot Locker app.

Though Nike has been one of the best in the sneaker game, it’s recently has shown signs of losing its death-grip on footwear for fans. In 2016, the Adidas Superstar landed the distinction of being the best-selling sneaker, dethroning Nike for the first time in more than a decade. Still, Nike’s popularity with teens is growing, climbing 10 percent from 2016 to 2017 to reach 31 percent of the demographic’s apparel and footwear spending, and in line with the industry-shaking athleisure movement, according to Piper Jaffray. What’s more, given Snapchat’s popularity with teens—39 percent say it’s their preferred app—the Nike/Snap Store drop makes plenty of marketing sense. As teens and millennials increasingly look to social platforms for influence and inspiration, it’s only a matter of time before stores on social become their go-to for transacting, too.

Snap Store’s launch has been carefully watched with just as many questions as answers. It offered a handful of Snap-brand items out of the game, with weekly new product drops following. But is there a cohesive commerce strategy to come? Or should brands and retailers expect more of these Nike-style partnerships designed as one-offs to build buzz over the latest and greatest?

“People will go to where these drops are. But Snap will need a lot of these exclusives to have a meaningful revenue stream,” said Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst Sucharita Kodali. “It could be a way for them to drive some loyalty.”

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