Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Good-looking feet and never mind the cost

SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS)- Call it the Sneakerhead syndrome. Fashion-conscious consumers are joining shoe devotees known as Sneakerheads when it comes to trendy athletic footwear.

As a result, high-priced athletic shoes are jumping off the store shelves and padding profits at Nike and its rivals.

Sneakerheads have long had a reputation as a rare breed of collector willing to shell out hundreds of dollars on hard-to-find sneakers few others have. But analysts say a fashion shift to premium sneakers like the Nike Shox has turned spending big bucks on athletic footwear more mainstream in a trend that is a boon for shoe companies.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at marketing firm NPD Group, said demand for athletic shoes that cost more than US$100 ($140) grew 18 per cent in the United States last year to almost US$600 million as premium footwear became the latest rage.

These kinds of shoes come with a plethora of gadgets, colours and functions.

But, said Cohen, most people buying them simply wanted the latest signature items. Only 33 per cent of basketball shoes were actually used to play basketball and an even smaller percentage when it came to running shoes.

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