Nike Is Making Less Air Force 1s

Execs say the brand is pulling back on the franchise.

Via Nike

Nike plans to produce less Air Force 1s going forward in order to protect the status of the iconic shoe and make way for new designs, CFO Matt Friend said on an earnings call this week.

“We’re managing some of our largest lifestyle franchises and some of our performance franchises back to make space for the newness,” Friend said on Nike’s third-quarter 2024 earnings call, mentioning the Air Force 1 as one of the models that will be pulled back.

He’s referenced the strategy before, saying on Nike's last earnings call, in December, that the brand would reduce supply of certain shoes due to frequent sales and “cautious consumer behavior.” 

The Air Force 1 first released in 1982 and has been a staple of Nike’s retro business for decades. Nike is not planning to make the popular sneaker suddenly scarce, but rather mitigate the number of pairs that go on sale.

The Air Force 1—a model that contributes many millions of dollars to Nike’s annual revenues—is in some ways symbolic of the company’s current predicament. It’s classic, but it’s also ancient. Nike, a brand keen to remind consumers at every opportunity how bullish it is on innovation, has recently been criticized for its over-reliance on rehashing old shoes and lack of exciting, novel product.

“We’ve been missing some product newness at scale in our portfolio over the last several seasons,” Friend admitted.

But on Thursday’s call, he claimed consumers have responded positively to Nike’s latest designs, motivating the brand to accelerate the effort to pull back on lines like the Air Force 1.

Friend said that the supply management will happen more in Nike’s digital direct-to-consumer business, where there have been heavy levels of “promotional activity” (brand speak for sneakers going on sale). But the decision was not, Friend explained, made due to any general dip in popularity of those styles.

“We could sell more of these products if we wanted to, but we don’t think that’s the right thing to do from a brand point of view,” said Friend. “And we know that we manage these franchises for long-term health.”