GULFPORT -- March Madness isn't just about brackets, it's also about the shoes the best players wear and local merchants have seen a spike in sales as fans shop for the styles they've seen on the court.
"They buy for performance but athletic shoes are fashion," said Rhonda Roberts, director of marketing and business development at Gulfport Premium Outlets, where six stores sell athletic shoes.
Shipments of the most popular brands arrive every day at the stores to keep up with the demand, retailers say.
"March Madness is like the runway or red carpet for athletic shoes," Roberts said. Nike, Reebok and other athletic shoe manufacturers have added neon orange, aqua, peach and other bright color combinations to entice consumers to buy the new styles.
According to Statista, Americans spend $21 billion a year on sports footwear and pay an average price of $67.94 a pair.
Tyreke Jackson isn't concerned with the price of the Air Jordans or the $139.99 his mom would pay if he selected shoes from pros Lebron James and Kobe Bryant.
"It concerns me," said his mother, Latasha Jackson of Florida, who was driving past the Gulfport Outlets during spring break and stopped to shop with her twin sons on their 16th birthday. Tyreke's shoes, which he wears for basketball and every day, last about three months. Brother Tyrell is more interested in skateboard shoes.
It isn't just bright colors shoppers want. Retro Jordans are all white, so they are allowed at some schools, and are priced at $99.99. Air Force Ones are white and solid black.
"You try to get stuff different than other people," said his friend, Cortez Mason of Slidell, who was shopping at the Gulfport Outlets in lime green Pumas.
"I like the bright colors," said Devonte Harris of Slidell, who matched his shirt with his bright blue Puma shoes. "It stands out. It's all about the look."