How New Balance built a $5 billion brand

When Richie Roxas bought his first pair of New Balance sneakers in 1994, he had no idea he was 20 years early to a trend.

While his sneakerhead friends were busy chasing the latest Nike release, Roxas decided to forge his own path.

“I found New Balances to be the most comfortable,” he tells CNBC Make It. “They were sort of like this underdog brand. And I gravitated towards them because not a lot of people were wearing them.”

Now 43, the shoe collector owns over 600 pairs of sneakers from the Boston-based brand. As his floor-to-ceiling collection has grown, so has New Balance.

What was once commonly viewed as a favorite of dads across America — occasionally mocked for its “ugly,” chunky aesthetic — has over the past decade evolved into a fashion-forward brand in its own right.

Richie Roxas purchased his first pair of New Balance sneakers in 1994. He’s been collecting the brand’s shoes and memorabilia ever since.

Lauren Shamo and Eric M. Clark

New Balance, which in 2022 brought in a balance-reports-2022-revenue-of-5-3-billion,1492653.html”>record $5.3 billion in revenue, is seeing its sales grow faster than that of larger rivals Nike and Adidas. Indeed, CEO Joe Preston has said that revenue could hit $10 billion “over the next few years.”

“The view of the New Balance brand today is drastically different than what it was 10 years ago.,” says Tom Nikic, a senior vice president at Wedbush Securities who covers the footwear and apparel sectors. “They’ve got a much bigger lifestyle component of the brand. There’s a much bigger fashion aspect of the brand. It’s a much cooler brand today than it was 10 years ago.”

Collabs with designers like Salehe Bembury, JJJJound, and Aimé Leon Dore have seen New Balance grow for four straight years on the resale site StockX — including a 128% jump between 2021 and 2022, according to data shared with CNBC Make It.

These days, New Balance sneakers are equally as likely to be seen on the feet of celebrities as they are to be worn by star athletes like the NBA’s Kawhi Leonard and Jamal Murray and MLB players Shohei Ohtani and Francisco Lindor.

For the full story of how New Balance went from fashion faux pas to fashion forward, check out the latest installment of CNBC Make It’s Suddenly Obsessed.

Correction: A previous version of this video and article misspelled Richie Roxas’ name.

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