This week, Nike announced its latest circular initiative, Nike Refurbished. The new program extends the brand’s efforts to eliminate waste by going beyond the moment you receive your new sneakers, the final point for the traditional linear supply chain model used by most brands. Nike Refurbished takes used footwear returned by customers, cleans them up, and then sells them at reduced prices.
This integrated offering of second-life products gives customers a chance to potentially pick up previous drops. But more importantly, it inspires a collective action that prolongs the life and wear of our shoes.
We can expect to see both men’s and women’s footwear, ranging from performance to lifestyle models, including the VaporMax, Air Max, and React lines.
The process of getting these sneakers back into our hands is done in four simple steps.
>>Customers return their unworn or gently worn shoes back to Nike within the allotted 60 days of purchase to receive a refund just like any normal return.
>>If eligible for the program, the shoes are inspected, sanitized and refurbished by a skilled hand.
>>The pair is then given one of three condition grades.
>>Finally, the Refurbished shoes are returned to a select Nike store at a reduced value based on the type and condition.
There are three conditions of Refurbished shoes that Nike will sell.
<Like New> Perfect or near-perfect condition with no sign of wear or flaws.
<Gently Worn> Great condition with visible light wear or cosmetic flaws.
<Cosmetically Flawed> Like new with no signs of wear but slightly imperfect (stains, marks, discoloration, etc.)
Nike Refurbished shoes will be available at 15 Nike Factory, Nike Unite, and Nike Community stores throughout the United States with more locations expected to come in the near future. These stores are:
- Glendale, AZ <Tanger Outlet Center> Westgate
- Gilroy, CA <Gilroy Premium Outlets>
- Los Angeles, CA <Nike Community Store> East LA
- Vacaville, CA <Vacaville Premium Outlets>
- Castle Rock, CO <Outlets at Castle Rock>
- Estero, FL <Miromar Outlets>
- Lutz, FL <Tampa Premium Outlets>
- Woodstock, GA <The Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta>
- Gulfport, MS <Gulfport Premium Outlets>
- Gretna, NE <Omaha – Nebraska Crossings>
- Monroe, OH <Cincinnati Premium Outlets>
- Lincoln City, OR <Lincoln City Outlets>
- Myrtle Beach, SC <Tanger Outlet Center> Myrtle Beach
- Sevierville, TN <Tanger Outlet Center> Sevierville
- Pleasant Prairie, WI <Pleasant Prairie Premium Outlets>
In order to build awareness of this new offering, Nike will be hosting upcycling workshops and launching relevant content this summer. This includes instructional repair and care videos that detail how to extend the life of different products.
Continuing the lifecycle of a shoe past its initial purchase and wear is not an entirely new concept. The giant sneaker industry we see and know today is due in part to the demand accelerated by the resale market, which is targeted to potentially reach $30 billion USD by 2030, according to Cowen Equity Research.
However, this resale sneaker market is typically driven by highly sought-after models, and often prices out many casual sneakerheads. It’s a market led by third-party tech companies such as StockX, GOAT, Grailed, and eBay, with prices running anywhere from 1.5x to 10x the retail price. It’s the digital version of donating or reselling your clothes to a consignment store, and it’s seen in the greater apparel industry with secondhand websites like The RealReal, Poshmark, and ThredUp.
Instead of relying on third-parties to step in and control the market, brands have taken it upon themselves to service a “reuse” type of business model. Clothing companies are teaming up with these aforementioned companies directly, such as the multi-brand partnership for The RealReal’s ReCollection 01 program, as well as Reformation’s partnership with ThredUp. Many brands have even developed their own circular programs with no middleman required, like Patagonia’s Worn Wear, The North Face’s Clothes The Loop, Arc’teryx’s Rock Solid Used Gear, and A.P.C.’s Butler denim collection.
Nike Refurbished is the first time we’re seeing this done, at scale, by a global footwear brand. It’s less about cashing in on any of the hype behind certain products, and more about addressing the reality of what extending product life does to our surrounding environment. Instead of products with plenty of life left ending up in landfills after a handful of wears by its first owner, a garment’s life is extended on average by 2.2 years if resold or donated, according to ThredUp.
Nike Refurbished is just one example of the Swoosh’s efforts in scaling circularity. Last year, the global footwear and apparel company set a 2025 goal to donate, refurbish or recycle 10x more used or defective products than it did at that time in 2020. The end-of-use moment of a product is now the point to put in real work. Nike aims to achieve its goal by investing in new business models, like Refurbished, and expanding recycling programs, like Reuse-A-Shoe, to create wider use of Nike Grind — recycled materials developed by manufacturing scraps, recycled shoes, and unsellable footwear.
Since 1992, the Nike Grind program has recycled over 130 million pounds of both post-consumer and post-industrial waste into new products with partners across the world. You’ve probably felt Nike Grind in models like the growing Space Hippie collection, the recently-dropped Cosmic Unity basketball shoe, and other sustainable footwear and clothing.
Nike Grind goes beyond apparel to also make work and home goods like carpet padding and tiles, active surfaces like fields and playgrounds, and even notable collaborations. That includes Pigalle’s ‘Gram-worthy basketball court that was built in Paris last year, as well as the Virgil Abloh-led redesign of Boys & Girls Club of Chicago’s basketball facility for the NBA’s 2020 All Star Weekend.
Nike is also partnering with Lyft to outfit 40 new ebike and scooter docking stations in Portland, Oregon with rubber mats made with 25% Nike Grind rubber in its top layer and 100% recycled tires in the bottom layer. The pilot is expected to expand to Denver and Chicago later this year.
Learn more about the new Nike Refurbished program here. You can also explore ways the brand is trying to innovate its products and practices in order to actively combat climate change at nike.gallery/planet.