Back in December we covered a story about an unruly crowd of sneaker shoppers in Alabama. As is common with these highly coveted kicks, Nike only releases a small number in an effort to create hype.
In Alabama, 100 sneaker heads stood waiting outside a small retailer to grab one of 36 wrist bands that would guarantee a pair of retro Jordans at a later date. When things got out of control, police were forced to use pepper spray on the crowd. This, of course, led to bad press for Nike and the Jordan brand, the retailer in Alabama, and the police. Not to mention, those who were caught in the middle and ended up in the hospital with various injuries.
This most recent incident occurred outside of a store called “Mad Rags” in Springfield, Mass. last week. An 11-year-old girl was waiting in line for the shoes, when she was caught in the middle of an argument between two other waiters. When gunfire sounded, the girl was hit in the leg. Police in Springfield sent out a massive unit in search of the shooter.
All this over sneakers. It seems crazy, right? There’s one pestering question that we asked back in December, and unfortunately, we’re forced to ask it again – was this incident preventable? What can police, retailers, and the Nike Air Jordan brand do to eliminate this sort of violence while still selling these sneakers?
Here’s what we think: Nike has already changed their release practices, pushing back the door time to 8 a.m. to eliminate campouts, and give law enforcement the benefit of daylight. They’ve also barred retailers from pre-selling sneakers, or posting pictures before release dates. These are all solid moves, but they’re obviously not enough. What else?
Crowd control equipment. It won’t stop gunfire, but it can create an atmosphere of law and order. A few bike rack barricades in front of the store paired with standing law enforcement will dramatically decrease the likelihood of violence. Inside the store, retractable belt barriers with standing law enforcement.
If you create an atmosphere that communicates order, you’re likely to have order. But, unfortunately, retailers and law enforcement can only do so much. Nike has surrounded the Air Jordan brand with hype and limited availability. Limited availability creates hype, which drives demand. And demand drives profits. It’s smart marketing, but it’s also what drives the problem.
Nike has tried to tone things down, but they may need to do more. No pair of sneakers is worth someone’s life, and we’re hoping we don’t have to cover a story like this again.