Talking with Nike's Gentry Humphrey at Exclucity's new store

This past weekend, Exclucity celebrated the grand opening of its third store, located at the brand new Dix-30 shopping complex on Montreal’s south shore. Dozens of sneaker aficionados had been camping in front over the store overnight, bearing the freezing cold in order to get first dibs on limited edition sneakers. The resolute footwear fans were especially excited to meet one of the most influential people in the sneaker industry, Gentry Humphrey, who had flown in from Nike’s headquarters in Oregon to cut the ceremonial store-opening ribbon.

Exclucity sells lifestyle and streetwear brands, notably limited edition Air Jordan and Nike brand footwear. The store atmosphere is sleek and sophisticated, and decidedly urban. The two standing locations are serious competitors in the Montreal athletic footwear scene, and the third store is sure to achieve similar success.

After a frenzy of photos and announcements, we caught up with Gentry for a private Q&A about the retail industry at large. Gentry’s official title is Product Creation Footwear Lead for NSW (Nike Sportswear), but he is better recognized for his 18 years as the GM for the Air Jordan brand.

Have you noticed a change in consumer behavior in the sneaker industry over the past 25 years?

“Oh, definitely. There were people back in the day that were really into sneakers, and they would go into stores and buy a lot, with the foresight that they would become collector’s items in the future. But there were very few that were smart enough to do that in the 80s. (…) There were very few of those back then, but today, there are so many more collectors, it’s ridiculous. The female consumer has also grown tremendously, and so many kids are really into it. (…) The same way that a lot of adults collect cars, the shoe game has started to define someone’s personality, and allows people to express themselves. Over the last 2 or 3 years, its gotten out of control with resellers (those who resell limited edition shoes on sites like eBay), it has almost become like a mini business for them.”

Do you think that with the rise of Internet shopping, it has changed consumer habits in traditional brick-and-mortar stores?

“I think the die-hard sneakerhead is still gonna shop in brick-and-mortar. (…) I think it’s up to us [industry leaders] to try to create new experiences. I’m a really big proponent of telling stories, and even working on an app where you can hold your phone over the shoe tag in the store, and it will give you immediate information about it – like the making of the shoe, the story of the shoe … so to me it allows consumers to appreciate the products a little bit more.”

With regards to new retail technology …

“To me, if they don’t do it, eventually they’re gonna lose out (…). I really like the analogy of a museum, you know – it’s almost like when you go to a museum and you see a painting, it’s much more special than looking at a picture of a painting online. You appreciate it that much more. The retail experience could be that [like a museum] if you give them the right tools. It’s all about how you get consumers to appreciate the experience and appreciate the product for what it is.”

Gentry Humphrey’s passion for athletic footwear was matched by the enthusiasm of the dedicated and knowledgeable sales associates at Exclucity. They use LightSpeed as their POS, and are committed to bringing the best possible shopping experience to the sneaker-lovers of Montreal.

Stephanie Braun

Stephanie Braun

Stephanie Braun is a content writer, fashion enthusiast, and lover of pets. When she's not writing about retail trends, she's travelling the world and learning new languages.