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Sneakers are a billion-dollar industry, but Black shoe retailers still feel underappreciated and underrepresented—and more of them are creating resources to increase visibility.

Nov 09 2021

Sneakers are a billion-dollar industry, but Black shoe retailers still feel underappreciated and underrepresented—and more of them are creating resources to increase visibility. According to Statista research, the sneaker market brought in $70 billion last year, but despite the fact that “Black culture and influence made athleisure a phenomenon, only a handful of Black retail owners are benefiting from the trend.” Even though Black consumers are “at the heart of that financial tide,” Black retailers of those products are still difficult to find. NBC News reports that only 5% of sneaker retailers in the U.S. are Black—but more of them are speaking out. James Whitner runs boutique apparel and sneaker shops in North Carolina and the East Coast for his company, The Whitney Group, which previously collaborated with Nike to create the A Ma Manerie x Air Jordan 3 and was visited by VP Kamala Harris. Meanwhile, Isom Lowman owns 22 Athlete’s Foot stores, and said that while he began his business in the late ‘90s, it “hasn’t been easy.” Last spring, Lowman launched the Strategic African American Retail Track (StAART) program to help create pathways for Black entrepreneurs to become retail store owners through education, exposure, and helping them break traditional barriers that Black owners typically face. Jennifer Ford, owner of sneaker boutique Premium Goods in Houston, and one of the only Black female entrepreneurs to own a sneaker store in the U.S. seventeen years ago, said if the program was around earlier, it would have “helped [her] so much.” (NBC News)