Why Yeezys, Jordans and Nike Dunks Dominated Rentals at Kyx World in 2021 — and Why Adidas Did Not
Online sneaker subscription platform Kyx World launched in June, a platform created to serve sneakerheads who miss out on the ultra-limited, high-heat releases . In the five months since its debut, the company has got a grasp on what its renters are looking for the most.
Leland Grossman, the director of marketing at Kyx World, offered FN a look into what subscribers are renting the most. The company broke down its rentals in four lists: top five Nike Dunks, top 10 Air Jordans, top 10 Yeezys and the top 10 sneakers overall.
Below, Grossman shared with FN the reason these specific shoes and brands hit with subscribers, and offers predictions for 2022.
There are no collaborations on the Top 5 Rented Dunks of 2021 list. Why are renters looking elsewhere?
Leland Grossman: “We know that Travis Scott and Virgil [Abloh] are driving so much of the energy around this business, but because of the way the industry has propped the shoes up from the collaborations, they’re just not accessible. Now, we’re seeing ‘Black/White,’ we’re seeing ‘Syracuse,’ we’re seeing ‘Michigan,’ we’re seeing ‘UNLV,’ we’re seeing these classic colorways of Dunks, a $150 shoe that used to be and sit on the shelf at Foot Locker, go on resale on StockX for twice the price. What we’ve learned about our consumer is while we love to see the top-tier subscriptions, we’re really serving the people that want Dunks. What we love to see is this more general release-style because we see that going far beyond the sneakerhead. My vision is for someone to go on Kyx and rent Sacais because they just think the shoes are cool and not because they know who Chitose [Abe] is and her long history of Nike. It’s cool to see these almost generic colorways getting their time to shine.”
You said your renter is not just the devoted sneakerhead. How, if at all, does this impact what pairs you acquire to then rent?
LG: “Part of that has to do with how we educate. I find most product descriptions to really cater to the sneakerhead. You have to know and care what they’re talking about in order to make any sense of what it is. They speak in this language that if you’re not a part the culture, it makes no sense. What we try to do is add things like styling and sizing notes to really land the plane among the average consumer — wear these with pants, don’t wear these with these jeans, these run a half size big. If the average person doesn’t know these things, it prevents them from getting into [sneakers] because it feels exclusive. I think over the next year, you’ll see more general release shoes, but we also have to keep it relatively tight. We can’t have 500 shoes on the platform.”
The only Adidas look on the Top 10 Rented Sneakers of 2021 list are Yeezys? What does this tell you about the desirability of the brand?
LG: “I give New Balance a lot of credit for the things they’re doing with Joe Freshgods, with Teddy [Santis]. They’re recognizing potential and moving fast on it. I think that’s really where Adidas has failed. Kanye [West] has done an incredible job of building the Yeezy brand through Adidas technology without making Adidas part of the story whatsoever. People just think of Yeezy as a completely standalone brand. We probably have less than five total Adidas collaborations separate from Yeezy on the platform, and honestly, they don’t get a ton of love. Brands have to guide collaborators. You get a Sean Wotherspoon, whose shoe at Nike was an absolute banger, bring him over to Adidas and candidly, that’s one of my least favorite shoes. What’s going on there? You gave him too much freedom to run wild with no story and the thread is falling off the shoes. And they have dope collaborators in their reigns, but there’s an old white German dude making the final calls and sometimes that is the problem in a culture that is definitively not catering to old white German dudes.”
With only three collaborations on the Top 10 Rented Jordans of 2021 list, why are people more interested in renting the generally more accessible Air Jordans?
LG: “A lot of these general release Jordans — the ‘Hyper Royals,’ the ‘Mochas,’ the ‘Legend Blues’ — these are shoes that the average kid in Kentucky, New York, Los Angeles, Houston just can’t get their local Foot Locker and they’re turned off by this idea that they have to pay resale for a shoe that they just want to wear. But you could spend your sneaker budget on one pair of ‘Legend Blues’ and one ‘Hyper Royal,’ or you could get the ‘Shadows,’ the ‘University Blue,’ the ‘Oreo,’ the ‘Lighting’ 4s and have basically 12 pairs for the cost of four.”
New Balance managed to crack the Nike- and Jordan-dominated Top Rented Sneakers of 2021 list. How has New Balanced managed to break through with your consumers?
LG: “I think they have created some internal processes that allow them to move much faster. There’s a guy by the name of Joe Grondin , he’s managing the collabs over there, and I give him a lot of credit because he clearly has been able to raise cultural awareness with Teddy, with Salehe [Bembury] and others. New Balance is taking more risks and they’re trying things that are putting themselves out there even more. They have firmly established their position as a cooler brand than Adidas because they’re willing to take that bet on someone like Joe Fresh, and the colorway is stick and the video that went with it was so f**king cool. Specifically with the 550, I think we’re in this phase of culture where people are obsessed with history and you could pull a basketball silhouette worn by James Worthy in the ‘80s and it connects with the current consumer who is so ready for that history lesson. And the fact that it looks like a Reebok or [an Adidas] Stan Smith, just a classic silhouette, and with baggy jeans coming back, it really fits with that look.”
With the Yeezy 700 V3 “Kyanite” topping your most rented sneakers list, what does this say about the popularity of the Yeezy imprint and its staying power?
LG: “It goes back to the silhouette diversity. They’ve created enough of an ecosystem of shoes where when a 700 becomes less popular or a 300 or 350, they have enough of that DNA and a language built up where people are excited for the next thing. Kanye does a really nice job of letting the water get warm and then as it gets cold, he pivots so there’s always something that the brand is doing that’s interesting. Also, it’s not being afraid to do the thing that’s weird. Those Knit Runners came out and people were joking on them, but at the end of the day, it is causing conversation, it is making people talk about the brand.”
What are your rental market predictions for 2022?
LG: “Virgil will continue to drive excitement at Nike. I don’t see Yeezy going anywhere, and I think the momentum is only going to continue. New Balance is also not going anywhere. Adidas, something needs to change in their energy department to get back on their feet. But it’s Adidas, so it’s totally doable, this is not an insurmountable hill to climb. In terms of other brands, I have a really fire Mizuno x Wood Wood collab from last year that I absolutely love, and I think Saucony is doing some interesting stuff — I saw they just did a Trinidad James collab. I think that as this culture expands and more and more people like it who have Saucony running shoes or Brooks or Hoka, I think that energy will start to become more intentional around them, especially as these higher fashion brands and collaborators really look for like their own lane.”