The discount shoe retail market had grown exponentially in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, with retailers such as Payless and Walmart selling a high volumes of footwear to a nation-wide consumer market. When the industry saw the increase in discount stores, Nike became interested in creating a program that would allow them to sell to such retailers and thereby reach a new customer segment.

Concept 21’s diverse capabilities made them the ideal consultancy to help Nike experiment with establishing relationships with such notable retailers. Once the project was approved by Nike’s board, Concept 21 worked in conjunction with a team lead by Clare Hamill to develop two separate brands, Tailwind for Payless and Starter for Walmart. 

Charged with the responsibility of developing a product line with Nike, as well as managing the entire development and manufacturing process, Concept 21 was able to produce results that impressed the leadership team at Nike. The footwear represented a quality product that resembled some of Nike’s top shoes, but at a fraction of the cost. This was achieved while still meeting all of the strict corporate responsibility guidelines that Nike has when working with any factories. To further ensure the success of the project, Concept 21 oversaw all China-based operations as well. 

Nike’s marketing engine swung into full effect for this project, bringing in pro athletes to promote Tailwind and Starter, which helped give the new project an excellent start. Yet, despite this initial boost, the team found that building a lasting relationship with this particular consumer was challenging. The values of these markets were transactional based and thus had to compete with lowest prices rather than brand value, a value set that Nike was unfamiliar with. 

After being on the market for only two years, Concept 21 gained Nike’s admiration and trust by executing such an ambitious project.  Concept 21 delivered a product that represented unprecedented value that impressed Nike’s leadership team, developing even deeper relationships with this industry leading organization.