We are back with the second edition of the WearTesters Weekender. This week , we will be delving into the topic of quality in regards to footwear, especially considering the recent recall of the LeBron 12 ‘NSRL’ colorway. As someone with some experience working in a quality control lab at a manufacturing plant, I figured I’d choose this topic, ignite some discussion, and deliver some insight. Consumers should be happy Nike made the big decision to delay the release, and I’m going to tell you why. Also, I encourage our readers to start hash-tagging #WearTestersWeekender to suggest topics for next weeks edition….we are keeping an eye out!
Seemingly moments before the highly anticipated LeBron XII release in China and a little over a week before the release worldwide, Nike made an unexpected decision to delay the release due to an apparent cosmetic issue they recently identified. Nike’s PR Director Heidi Burgett released a statement on their site that did not elaborate much on the situation.
“Product quality is a priority for Nike. Due to a small cosmetic issue with some of the LEBRON 12 shoes we have delayed the initial retail launch that was scheduled for China on October 1, and the global launch that was scheduled for October 11. We will communicate an update on the retail date as soon as possible.”
Now, whether this is a cosmetic issue such as a problem with the display of the number 6 as opposed to his newly chosen number of 23, a Nike logo or stitching issue, or something that legitimately affects performance; the simple fact is that Nike took the steps to remedy the problem. In terms of rolling out a product. The later you catch an issue of quality, the more expensive it is for your company to remedy the situation. At that point in the process of product development, so many man hours and resources have been poured into the product that quality issues are costly. If it’s small cosmetic issue? Fine, the factories may quickly set up a process to repair or redo the problem area. But if its the hexagonal zoom sole, or something with the megafuse upper, a tremendous amount of extra costs come into play in order to fix the shoes.
Now, let’s keep in mind what Nike is all about, every individual is an athlete of some sort, and every athlete deserves a premium performance product. In fact, straight from the Nike page on the newest LeBron:
“This is Nike at its best: we take the insights from a world-class athlete in LeBron James to inform forward-thinking designs and create the most innovative shoes,” said Kelly Hibler, Nike Basketball VP of Footwear. “We’ve combined the art and science of engineering in the LEBRON 12 to advance the game of basketball’s best player.”
They intend to put out the best product possible for their signature athletes and consumers, so if there was something noticeably wrong with the LeBron set to release this week, they had to delay it. If you got a package with your new LeBrons in it, opened it up in excitement and then noticed that the stitching on the lateral side was flawed, or something was crooked or asymmetrical enough to notice; what would you think? If Nike recalled it after release and distribution then it would be the consumers job to box it up and ship it back….and then wait on a shoe you already held in your hands.
This way, Nike was able to catch the issue just in time, takes the hit in regards to money and PR and makes sure the LeBron you get in the box is what they intended for consumers. It is just a sneaker, waiting a few more weeks for its release shouldn’t be too problematic.
Now, this type of quality issue could happen with any brand, any release, and at any time. In fact, there are probably cosmetic issues identified in footwear that still goes to market because the added cost to fix it would not be financially feasible (I bet we can all get a story about that from our readers, but this is more regards to a consistent problem on every unit manufactured).
These footwear brands have all these designers and engineers working together on new releases and new technologies, but then they have to go to the overseas manufacturing plants and convey those design intentions and emphasis on quality for the production side. Nike has hundreds, if not thousands of factories working for them across Southeast Asia, they have to consistently communicate and control their processes in order to ensure continued product quality. The same goes for the likes of Adidas, Puma, and any brand manufacturing far away from their headquarters. The LeBron 12 is $200 dollars because you are paying for the brand reputation, the signature athlete association, and the complex materials and design elements that are continually incorporated into the line.
If we expect a brand to uphold the 8 accepted dimensions of quality such as conformance, reliability, aesthetics, performance, and durability, then we need to understand when a release delay occurs to ensure the product is done right. Quality cannot be inspected into a product, it must be built in throughout its manufacturing process. Let’s all hope the LeBron 12 looks and performs to expectations upon its eventual release….because Nike cannot afford to mess up a second consecutive LeBron in the eyes of the consumers.
I hope you enjoyed this weeks edition of the WearTesters Weekender, please comment below, share with others, and ignite some discussion!