The fact that Nike’s once-exclusive Panda Dunks are now widely available is driving some sneakerheads crazy

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A 26-year-old M.B.A. student from Provo, Utah, Zack Jones adores sneakers and the pursuit of owning them, particularly the Nike Inc. limited-edition models that can sell out quickly. When he couldn’t get a pair of “Panda” Dunks, a white-and-black leather shoe by Nike, directly from the shoe giant, he paid a reseller $280—2½ times the sticker price—to obtain a pair.

Then Nike did something that fans of sneakers weren’t prepared for. After the initial release, the company repeatedly restocked the Panda Dunk in an attempt to capitalise on the excitement. The sudden proliferation of shoes can be fatal for collectors and die-hards trying to stand out from the crowd.

In October, while visiting Disneyland with his family, he counted 75 individuals sporting Panda Dunks.

“It’s like when Facebook came out. At first it was just younger kids, and then all of a sudden your mom is on Facebook,” he stated when he saw his coveted shoes on everyone. “That’s not as cool anymore.”

The Nike Dunk Low Retro White Black, formerly known as the Panda Dunk, has divided opinion among sneakerheads. They are top sellers for Nike and resellers like StockX LLC, eBay Inc., and Goat Group thanks to the support of their customers.

But other sneakerheads find that prevalence annoying, especially on social media. Anthony Treviso, owner of the sneaker news website SiteSupply, said of the Panda Dunk, “I’m sick of seeing it. “How about you like something more interesting? There’s no creativity.”

The sneakers serve as an excellent example of the major problem with limited-edition products: There must be enough of them to become a mass-market phenomenon while still being scarce enough to appear unique.

Since its release almost 40 years ago, the Nike Dunk basketball sneaker has become one of the brand’s most well-known products. Each year, dozens of varieties, including the Panda, which made its debut in early 2021, receive limited releases.

For Miami-based event producer Norma Moreno, who purchased a pair of the Pandas when they were first released but decided to give them away once they became overly popular, the model’s frequent restocks were too much.

The 32-year-old claimed that the purchases showed how streetwear culture had become more mainstream. She stated, alluding to the Panda Dunk, “No one is showing that off.”

Panda Dunks continue to sell out despite some people believing they have been oversold because the average sneaker buyer still finds them to be cool, according to Alabama-based sneaker content creator David Daniels, also known online as SneakerPhetish. Kids want to look like the celebrities they look up to, therefore they wear them. Mr. Daniels said  “The sneakers also have a reasonable price, and resellers are still able to make a profit,” he added. “It’s like the perfect storm.” 

In a video posted to his YouTube channel, David Daniels, also known online as SneakerPhetish, describes himself. He is holding the Michigan State Dunk Low from Nike.

U.S. soccer star Alex Morgan, who is currently sponsored by the shoe giant, made an appearance on a GQ video the day before the most recent Panda Dunk restock on Jan. 19, where she discussed her top ten must-haves. Her pair of Panda Dunks were the most popular item.

According to Piper Sandler research analyst Abbie Zvejnieks, the sneaker benefits from Nike’s marketing apparatus, which has fostered the notion among consumers that they must be at a specific location at a specific time in order to succeed. According to Ms. Zvejnieks, who purchased a pair of Panda Dunks in May on a resale website, “you can’t just go to any store and purchase the item.” Customers must enter raffles or virtual lines to purchase Nike’s limited-edition shoes.

According to business records, Nike held over 500,000 pairs of the Panda Dunk in inventory and made approximately 150,000 pairs of them available for purchase during the Panda Dunk’s January refill.

Customers frequently face competition from resellers, many of whom utilise automated algorithms to locate products that are on sale, purchase them in bulk, and then resell them on resale websites for a profit.

According to resellers, despite the numerous restocks, Panda Dunks continuously sell for more than their suggested retail price, according to Cynthia Lee, vice president of merchandising at StockX. The Panda Dunk, according to EBay and Goat, was their best-selling shoe in 2017.

The Panda Dunk is scheduled to be restocked by Nike this month and on subsequent occasions, according to sneaker vendors.

That’s bad news for the sneaker culture, where possessing a unique pair of shoes allows people to stand out. Mr. Daniels, the producer of sneaker material, said, “You can lose that if you start seeing the sneaker everywhere.

Some shoppers only care about getting the footwear, regardless of what others may think. On January 19, Francis Salamanca, a healthcare communications engineer from San Jose, California, attempted to purchase a pair from Nike. He claimed this was his seventh failed try since the summer. Despite stating that he would be willing to pay roughly 30% more than the suggested retail price, the 31-year-old hasn’t been successful in locating a pair in that price range. It just aggravates me so much, he remarked.

Mr. Salamanca laughed off the remarks of a cousin who had made fun of another family member for wanting Panda Dunks at a Christmas Day family gathering, saying there were so many better shoes. Mr. Salamanca said “If he had the opportunity or got lucky with a drop, he would swipe [his credit card] and get those Pandas so quick.” 

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