Store brand swag?

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Store brand swag?

By Dan Ochwat - 07/02/2020
Screenshot of Lidl's new shoes.

Who needs an exclusive pair of Nike Air Max 1 shoes for hundreds or even thousands of dollars when you can get a pair of Lidl sneakers for 15 euros in Finland? One problem: the colorful store brand sneakers have been a huge hit, selling out and being flipped on third-party sites for hundreds themselves.

Posts on the highly sought-after shoes began appearing on social feeds from consumers trying to get a pair, and then news coverage spread online to websites like Ladbible and the U.K. papers. Reports said there were lines down the block in Finland, as consumers tried to snare a pair either to wear themselves or flip on a third-party site for three times the price or even hundreds or thousands of euros. 

I reached out to a representative for Lidl's U.S. operations, who was looking into if the shoes would be coming to the United States, but there hasn’t been any news there and at the time the representative wasn’t aware of the Finnish viral hit. Reports said the shoes wouldn’t be sold in U.K. stores, either.

In footwear, exclusivity or limited supply is the name of the game, so, yes, the only reason these shoes are popular is that they can’t be found. However, with their bold blue, yellow and red Lidl colors, and Lidl logo on the tongue, they do have a streetwear trend appeal, in my opinion, and Gen X and millennial shoppers do seem to be into apparel branded with heritage logos or imagery. The popular streetwear brand Supreme has made a living off this, and I completed a highly scientific poll of my nephews to confirm.

Now, I fully acknowledge that the Lidl shoe craze is a happy accident, but maybe there’s something here to how young shoppers do feel about their favorite retailers, how they are, in fact, very loyal to them down to a branded sneaker. Maybe retailers can take store brand shoes and apparel and veer into a more fashion territory based on this trend?

Who’s to say Walmart couldn’t launch a blue and yellow shoe with a throwback logo and make it very limited? The retailer would definitely continue to sell its store brand value shoes, because they’re essential and actually serve a purpose for shoppers, but maybe doing an exclusive elevates everything else? 

What about Aldi? It does seem like that retailer’s logo and color scheme could be ripe for a fun shoe collaboration, and it worked for Lidl. Anyone down for a Costco-logo shoe with bold red and blue colors?

If Nike can sell a series of shoes based on "Spongebob Squarepants" or Vans can have a series of shoes inspired by National Geographic, it doesn’t seem out of bounds for a retailer to try it with their branding, targeting young shoppers. And this way, the retailer would have some control over the process. And, again, it's not a replacement of the value shoes and apparel offered but a step into a more trendy play while there's a moment.

I’ve often thought about my own young son, how quickly he knew the Target and Dollar Tree logos and those stores in our household. And how he didn’t grow up with nationally televised Saturday morning cartoons or after-school TV shows that were driven by national brand ads. The friends I grew up with can still recite the old "I got the Motts" TV ad, but my son’s only known streaming and his favorite retailers. That loyalty is built in early.

Maybe this is an example of how, with younger shoppers, retailers might be able to get away with a crazy idea like these Lidl shoes, or maybe this is just an attempt at insight into how something like the Lidl shoe craze can happen.

Obviously, I'm not really sure if store brands can somehow step into fashion, picking up where Lidl accidentally left off, it sounds crazy even saying it out loud, but store brands have come a long way in quality. Could they ever be considered cool? Lidl had me wondering.

I will keep an eye on whether Lidl launches a controlled, extended rollout to try and match the momentum. Or, maybe if they launch the shoe wide, it won't be cool anymore. A fleeting moment of store brand swag.

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