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Nike generated plenty of headlines earlier this week when it announced a shoe subscriptions for kids. For any parent who views this back-to-school time of the year with angst, or for any former kid who remembers the ordeal of going from store to store at the mall, Nike’s new venture will arouse plenty of reactions, from “oh thank goodness” to “where was this when I was young?”

The service works like this: Parents settle on one of three plans; kids can then select from various Nike- and Converse-branded shoes; the shoes arrive in a personalized box; and when the kid outgrows the shoe, gets tired of it, wears it out, or if he or she just doesn’t like it, the shoes can be seamlessly dropped off in the mail.

For those of us focused on sustainability, these shoe subscriptions’ most compelling selling point is that, depending on the condition of the returned shoes, they will be refurbished and sent to a family in need. If they are beyond repair, Nike has pledged to recycle them through its Grind program.

Of course, there is no shortage of clothing and shoe subscriptions for all ages, but Nike’s stands out for its reuse, refurbish and recycle angle. Watch for other companies to respond in kind, as there are plenty of people in need, as well as customers who want to consume less and reuse more. The possibilities are endless, and in any event, the pressure is on for retailers and apparel companies to become more responsible and ecological—those who do not fall in line will struggle in the near future.

There is another reason why brands may want to emulate Nike: the Amazon factor.

The impact Amazon has long had on retailers is an open book—and many, from Kohl’s to Macy’s, are responding or suffering in kind.

But another argument the likes of Nike can make as they try to push subscriptions while competing with Amazon is one that centers on sustainability.

While Amazon has claimed that it will be better about donating products returned to its warehouses, many critics have alleged that far too many goods in perfectly fine shape end up in landfills.

The hilarious and disturbing case of the 22-year-old who was arrested in Barcelona earlier this month after scamming Amazon out of $370,000 by returning boxes of dirt is a case in point. If it took Amazon’s employees a few fortnights to figure out those returns were not unwanted dumbbells, Brita filters or Martha Stewart linens, well . . . logic only dictates that plenty of Amazon packages have ended up in some sort of warehouse or landfill purgatory.

Some may say, “Well, what about the emissions from all those boxes being sent back and forth?” The answer is, read the story about James Gilbert Kwarteng and be reminded that online shoppers and subscribers—and the brands shipping and receiving these boxes—can do far better.

Image credit: Shane Rounce/Unsplash

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Clothing and Shoe Subscriptions, the Answer to Amazon
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A popular brand launches shoe subscriptions for kids and offers apparel and footwear companies ideas on how to swat away competition from Amazon.
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