NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Shares of athletic apparel maker Nike (NKE) have zoomed up 21% this year, and one big reason is the company's Jordan brand continues to be on fire at athletic wear retailers such as Foot Locker (FL) and Finish Line (FINL) .
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"Jordan product remains very strong in all of its components -- Jordan marquee was strong, Jordan sportswear was outstanding, and so were retros [sneakers]," said Foot Locker Executive Vice President and COO Dick Johnson on a Nov. 21 earnings call, adding that sales of basketball footwear were up by double digits in the quarter.
He said Foot Locker referred to Nike's "Big Three" Jordan brands of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James as leading the sales growth. Company execs hinted at another future sales driver in Nike-sponsored athlete Kyrie Irving, the young Cleveland Cavaliers point guard now tasked with passing the rock to LeBron James.
Meanwhile, at Finish Line, the latest read on Jordan related sales have largely mirrored Foot Locker's, except for sluggish sales in select "lifestyle" sneaker categories (lifestyle sneakers are those not specifically designed for on-the-court wearing).
"Retro Jordan (sneakers) continue to be in high demand and sold through well, as did bring-back models like True Flight," Finish Line Chairman and CEO Glenn Lyon said on a Sept. 26 earnings call. The basketball business for Finish Line is primarily comprised of the Jordan brand, representing over 50% of that business. Finish Line's same-store sales in September were up by a high-single digit percentage, with "specific strength" stemming from the release of the new Jordan retro 2014 sneaker, one meant to tap into the early versions of sneakers worn by the iconic Jordan.