Skip to main content

70 Buck Chucks: Converse and Chuck Taylor

How a $30 billion giant resisted killing the goose, and in the process uncovered a golden egg.


Chuck Taylors were once considered a performance shoe, worn by Wilt Chamberlin in 1963, when he scored 100 points in a single game. Today, they are an anti-fashion, anti-establishment statement.

Nike purchased a bankrupt Converse in 2003, for $305 million. At the time Converse was generating annual revenues of $205 million and Nike's sales were over $10 billion.

Last year, Converse sold 270,000 pairs of Chuck Taylor sneakers... every day. That's 100 million pairs of "Chucks."


In their most recent fiscal year, ending May 31, 2015, Converse's revenue was nearly $2 billion, a 10x growth over 10 years. At $517 million, Converse now represents over 12% of Nike's total operating profit, and Chuck Taylor sneakers are responsible for most of Converse's sales and profit.

Kudos to Converse CEO, Jim Calhoun and his team.

These statistics, and more, were published in The New York Times this weekend in a story of "enduring American business" by Jeff Sommer, "Treading Carefully to Update a Well-Worn Sneaker Brand."

The "New" Chuck Taylor II, with Lunarlon cushioned insoles

Where the rubber, and canvas, meets the road.


Nike just introduced an "updated" Chuck Taylor sneaker with a new insole. It is a subtle, and cautious, "tweak" to the original sneaker launched in 1917.  It looks nearly identical to the classic 1934 canvas version.

Chuck Taylor, All-Star Salesman & Basketball Coach

Ultracrepidarianism


Apelles, a famous ancient Greek artist, in response to a shoemaker who criticized his painting, is credited with saying, "Ne ultra crepidam judicaret." Literally translated as, "Shoemaker, do not rise beyond the sandals." Today we know the phrase as, "Stick to your last" or "stick to the things you know something about." (A "last "being the form upon which a shoe is built).  Nike and Converse understand this aphorism quite well.

Nike has managed to leverage their marketing muscle without alienating Chuck Taylor's core customers, a formidable feat, and a valuable lesson.

(c) David J. Katz, New York City

Popular posts from this blog

Beware of Wombats & Other Vampires

You are surrounded by dangerous WOMBATS. They’re everywhere. Sometimes they hide in plain sight, easy to spot. Other times they are well camouflaged, requiring heightened awareness to identify them. You need to stay alert, it’s important to avoid them. WOMBATs resemble ordinary, productive tasks. However, they are vampires for time and resources, weapons of mass distraction.WOMBATs are seductive. Working on a WOMBAT feels productive.WOMBATs are bad for your career.WOMBATs are bad for your business.WOMBATs infiltrate your work day (and your personal time). Strike them down.WOMBATs may be be ingrained in your company culture: “We’ve always done it that way…” WOMBAT Metamorphosis Alert: A task or project that wasproductive in the pastcanevolve into a WOMBAT in today's environment.Your comfort zone is populated with WOMBATs.More on comfort zones, here.Some people are WOMBATs in disguise. Stay away from them, they are vampire WOMBATs.If you don’t control your WOMBATs, your WOMBATs will…

Taking Tips From a Younger Generation

Phyllis Korkki, an assignment editor at The New York Times, visited the garment district in Manhattan to interview designers as part of a story for the newspaper’s Snapchat account. Credit George Etheredge/The New York Times
What Could I Possibly Learn From A Mentor Half My Age? Plenty.

How on earth did I become an “older worker?”

It was only a few years ago, it seems, that I set out to climb the ladder in my chosen field. That field happens to be journalism, but it shares many attributes with countless other workplaces. For instance, back when I was one of the youngest people in the room, I was helped by experienced elders who taught me the ropes.

Now, shockingly, I’m one of the elders. And I’ve watched my industry undergo significant change. That’s why I recently went searching for a young mentor — yes, a younger colleague to mentor me.

How Randa and the Fashion Industry are Adapting to DIY

The term 'Do It Yourself' has turned into a phenomenon over the past decade and is continuing to gain momentum, especially in the fashion industry. From interactive design stations at Topshop, to custom shoes at Jimmy Choo, every level of the fashion industry is dipping their toes into the pools of DIY.

"Many industry insiders think it is just the beginning. Ask about the future of fashion, and the answer that is likely to come back (along with the importance of Instagram and the transformation of shows into entertainment) is personalization," says Vanessa Friedman from the New York Times.