Many of us are customers of subscriptions businesses for items like diapers and clothing. Now tennis legend, Roger Federer, and yet another athletic shoe giant are dipping their toes in the shoe subscription business – this time with an eco-friendly twist. Can it work?
A subscription model is the holy grain for many consumer products companies for many reasons: predictable cash flows, improved customer experience and lower customer retention costs. It has worked for firms peddling diapers, like The Honest Company, and healthy smoothies, like those sold by Daily Harvest. Shoes are trickier to create a subscription business around because of the higher price points, large inventory that must be kept on hand and the rapidly changing trends.
Nike, Salomon and other brands have tried the shoe subscription business, with varied success. Now, Roger Federer-backed On-Running, is playing. It brings a fresh approach with its upcycled, vegan shoe that can be worn, returned and recycled into a new running shoe.
How Nike and others have played the shoe subscription market
Many have played in this space before, including the shoe-making giant, Nike. It launched its Adventure Club, a monthly subscription severe for kids in 2019. According to CNN, “Nike started piloting a sneaker club for kids (in 2017). It grew to 10,000 members” before the formal Adventure Club launched. The concept offered parents 12 pairs of sneakers for $50 a month with a selection of over 100 sneakers. But a year after its launch, Nike closed its Adventure Club in late 2020 without explanation.
Shoe subscription businesses like ShoeDazzle and SneakerTub offer members access to different pairs of new or gently worn shoes per month, as well. But it seems these models are all missing a special element: upcycling.
Ski boot maker, Salomon, is working on a subscription business but with the upcycled twist: it has unveiled a concept for a recyclable running shoe that can be remade into a ski boot. The shoe is made completely of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), which can be ground down at the end of its life, then combined with original TPU and used to construct an alpine ski boot shell. Learn more about it here.
On-Running’s program sells and recycles vegan running shoes
Similar to Salomon, Swiss company, On-Running, is taking an eco-tech bend. It offers new tech that could make the financial angle of the subscription shoe model work for companies, customers and the environment with its all-white running shoe made out of castor bean derivatives.
Currently, the Cloudneo has a five-digit long waitlist with the first pairs expected to reach customers in June.Quartz
For $29.99 a month, members will receive a pair of Cloudneo vegan shoes – formed from 100% recyclable, bio-based, undyed yarn in a geometric weave, designed with performance running in mind. Members can switch out the shoes every 6 months after turning their previous pair for a brand new pair that doesn’t skimp on performance:
“Making a fully recyclable shoe is one thing. We went a step further. We wanted to show that sustainability and performance can go hand in hand. The outcome might be the highest performance shoe we’ve ever engineered.”– Olivier Bernhard, Co-Founder and Leader of the Innovation Team
A company executive shared with Quartz that it is running a pilot program with its vegan shoe that was completely redesigned to allow for recycling and performance. It is testing various aspects of the program including: different return periods and ways to ensure customers aren’t trading in shoes too early. On-Running hopes the application of this recycling technology will expand to apparel, as well. The shoe has received the ‘Product of the Year Award | Running & Fitness’ at the ISPO Munich early 2021, celebrating its game-changing approach to circularity as well as the quality and performance of the final shoe.
Interest in learning more? Here’s more on how to join the Cloudneo subscription program here.