Erik Fagerlind, who cofounded the specialty sneaker chain Sneakersnstuff with Peter Jansson in 1999, says 80 percent of its business now comes from e-commerce sales — up from 50 percent five years ago. But physical retail remains a significant part of its growth strategy outside of home country of Sweden, having planted shops in London, Paris, Berlin and now New York.
“In a world where everything is available and accessible, you have to provide a little bit more than product,” Fagerlind said. “You have to provide the service to be relevant with your consumer.”
Sneakersnstuff will bring its popular concept to New York in early December. The 3,500-square-foot shop will be located in the Meatpacking District, designed by Jenny Askenfors of Bofink Design Studio and feature a basement bar. Wil Whitney, who has deep roots in the New York skate and streetwear scene — he was a former manager at Stüssy, helped start Nom de Guerre, a men’s wear brand and Brooklyn shop that closed in 2010, and most recently worked for Noah — will manage the boutique. There are plans to open a Los Angeles flagship in 2018.
In Fagerlind’s view, the Meatpacking District was the ideal spot because it’s not saturated with other sneaker retailers and it’s going through a resurgence. Reign, a men’s wear store, opened earlier this month and Hermès plans to open a store on Gansevoort in 2019. Dean & DeLuca will take over Spice Market’s former space on 13th Street and Pastis is returning to the neighborhood.
Despite starting the business in Stockholm, Fagerlind and Jansson are familiar with New York retail and how it’s transformed over the years. The two met while working in retail and bonded over sneakers. They began taking trips to New York together to purchase styles they couldn’t find in Sweden and started buying shoes for other people, which was the genesis of Sneakersnstuff.
Fagerlind remembers feeling like he had to know a secret handshake to be welcomed into sneaker shops, which used to litter New York blocks. He’s hoping to foster a different energy at Sneakersnstuff and bring some excitement back to the category.
“In the Nineties, there was a sneaker destination every five blocks, but now the marketplace is very restricted,” Fagerlind said. “New York should be the most important city in the world for sneakers, but I don’t see that it is today. You have a couple of good retailers and brands, but with the migration to online, the stores have become rigid and conceptual. We want to create an environment that feels special and is friendly.”
For Fagerlind, that also means being friendly with the neighbors, who he said won’t be impacted by the drops. Over the course of a week, the retailer can release 135 different stockkeeping units. Sneakersnstuff will use digital platforms or apps to prevent sleepovers or crowding in the street and customers will come to the shop to pick up the product they’ve already claimed or purchased.
When Fagerlind and Jansson initially started the business, they always wanted to scale. After failed attempts of opening more stores in Stockholm and other parts of Sweden, they realized Sneakersnstuff was a big-city concept, and they needed to open store in larger, metropolitan areas. After what Fagerlind describes as a 12-year learning curve, they brought on David Hedman, who cofounded the Swedish brand WeSC, and Jan Carl Adelswärd, as minority shareholding partners. In 2013, they brought in Ceder Capital, a private equity firm, as a minority shareholder.
Since 2011, the business has grown more than 55 percent annually and Fagerlind said it is projected to do $42 million in sales this year and grow by 35 percent in 2018. SNS will focus more on its apparel line later this year.
Fagerlind believes the sneaker category operates in waves, much like other categories, but he doesn’t foresee the interest in it waning anytime soon.
“You can’t deny the fact that sneakers have been growing steadily for 20 or 30 years and the industry is bigger than ever,” Fagerlind said. “But business will go up and down, and the mainstream players will have a hard time when the peak goes down. As a specialist, we are the first to feel a boom coming and we are the last to suffer when the boom shakes out. But I don’t see business fading.”