Nike was in damage serious damage control.

It was Aug. 21 and news had broken that it was releasing a sneaker that would retail for $315, making it the company’s highest price ever for a shoe release.

Start sales at 8 a.m. for the new Lebron X Nike Plus, not at midnight, company officials told retailers. Brawls and disorders occurred at some stores that staged releases of popular sports shoes at midnight and they didn’t want to be the stimulus for that. The Lebron X, according to the shoemaker, will be offered in two different versions for two different prices. There will be one regular sneaker and another version with Nike + technology, which will track the vertical leap and quickness of the person wearing the shoes.

“The Lebron X will be launched in the fall at a suggested retail price of $180,” Nike spokesman Brian Strong said in a statement. “The initial introduction of the Lebron X will be the red, white and blue Nike plus enabled version and that price is still being set, but will be at a higher price to reflect the Nike plus technology embedded in the shoes.”

That explanation has not stopped a flood of criticism from people who want Nike to drop the price to make the shoes more affordable.

“This is not food, this is not rent, it’s a single pair of sneakers,” National Urban League President Marc Morial told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s the consumer’s choice after all, but it’s insensitive to market a $300 shoe to kids and teenagers as people are going back to school and struggling to buy school supplies.”

In comparison, for $315, a college student and his parents could go to Best Buy and purchase Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 for Windows software, a wireless network printer by Brother, an Amazon Kindle and Titanium Maximum Security software for Windows by Trend Micro and still have about $50 left.

The sneakers are expected to be a top seller, one that could cause the same hysteria that has dogged previous Nike shoe releases. In February, Nike released the $220 Galaxy Air Foamposites One that sparked chaos nationwide, but especially in Orlando where Florida Mall had to be shut down and 100 riot police officers had to be called to disperse an unruly crowd.

Just two months earlier, the release of a retro Air Jordan sneaker produced the same result. In Jersey City, N.J.; a man was stabbed after a brawl broke out in line.

Despite the prices and chaos, Nike remained profitable in 2011 and in the first quarter of 2012. Besieged by rising costs, the sports apparel giant missed profit projections for the first time in two years in June. However, experts don’t think the downturn will last long for the company.

“Margins will eventually become better and they have already taken pricing actions, so in general we think it is a matter of time,” Matt Arnold, consumer discretionary analyst for Edward Jones, told Reuters. “Nike is a strong brand with a lot going right for it.”

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO