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Is Adidas Setting the Bar for Nearshoring and Speed to Market?

Adidas dropped its third high-tech Speedfactory sneaker on April 26—and the men’s version sold out online by the next day, perhaps confirming consumer demand for premium data-driven, design-conscious athletic products tailored for local markets.

Following the AM4LDN and AM4PAR—sneakers created in Adidas’ Ansbach, Germany Speedfactory for London and Paris, respectively—the $200 AM4NYC was designed specifically for the New York City metro area with insights and input from local runners Adam Francique and Jessie Zapo, who lead the Adidas Runners NYC group. It was assembled in the Atlanta-area Speedfactory from parts crafted in Ansbach in order to get the product to North American consumers quickly.

It’s also the first product co-created and assembled in the Atlanta factory that’s available for consumers to purchase, Adidas confirmed.

“The AM4NYC shoe demonstrates the potential of adidas Speedfactory to set a new benchmark for performance products by using an advanced digital and data-driven processes, and bringing in local runners to be a part of this future of footwear creation,” Ben Herath, vice president of design for adidas Running, said.

Adidas celebrated the launch with a pop-up Speedfactory Lab Experience in Brooklyn from April 26-27 to bring consumers behind the scenes and demonstrate what differentiates these data-driven sneakers from other shoes—or even the remainder of Adidas’ product line, much of which is mass-produced in Asia. The Lab Experience offered consumers private foot scanning to determine their ideal fit and shoe size. Plus, Lab visitors had the chance to test run the AM4NYC through an “interactive experience.”

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The AM4NYC continues the Speedfactory practice of leveraging data to evolve performance-driven design. During ideation and design, Adidas envisioned a shoe that would empower New York City runners to tackle their urban environment with ease, rounding corners and changing directions quickly without compromising support and stability. The brand examined years of sports science data focusing on motion and movement specific to running athletes in order to nail down the right combination of heel and midfoot structure and support that would add unnecessary weight and bulk.

The Speedfactory leans heavily on digital processes, a departure from traditional manufacturing methods. Among the new shoe’s distinct features are what Adidas refers to as “fit programming,” digitally mapping tension patches onto the AM4NYC’s textile upper, creating a balance of stretch and stiffness so that wearers get the stability and agility they need. The shoe is built with a glue-free process, instead digitally bonding the upper to the sole, and includes the BOOST comfort cushioning that has proven a popular mainstay in Adidas products of late. Plus, Adidas’ reimagined its classic torsion system to “float” in the sole, embedding it through a digital process free of adhesives for support sans stiffness.

Sights set on speed

Like many top brands competing for customer attention, Adidas sees speed as a strategic initiative.

Last year the company’s net sales shares from “speed-enabled products” rose 28 percent, and the goal is to reach at least 50 percent by 2020. That’s a pretty significant ambition, given that Adidas’ traditional supply chain churned out 403 million pairs of sneakers in 2017 and the company expects Speedfactories, which have created 160 jobs apiece, to achieve 1 millions pair annually by 2020.