Who would have thought, reselling sneakers would be big business in today’s economy. So much so, the resell industry has been considered a promising market to invest in. According to ThredUp and GlobalData Retail annual report, the resale market is currently valued at an astonishing $28 Billion (£20.6 Billion) in 2020. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the market space has come a long way since the days of haggling on eBay, with resell entrepreneurs and brand enthusiasts having more outlets to facilitate transactions. Leading brands like StockX and Sneaker Con (and platforms alike) have given resellers and buyers a credible and authenticated platform to do business. As an emerging and obscure market, it has been left to regulate itself, but brands such as StockX have added a layer of protection for buyers by authenticating items sold through its platform. Reducing the sale of fakes and eliminating the stigma clouding the industry.
But the survival and growth of the resale market are heavily dependent on conglomerate brands such as Nike, Adidas, Louis Vuitton and Gucci (and brands alike) progressive marketing strategy to expand into new markets and positioning their brand in the minds of the active community by collaborating with streetwear brands, creating one-off items or limited colourways. Usually, the more renounced the collaboration, the greater the demand, which means, the greater the profits for vendors. The resale market is expected further growth, with it’s projected value to be $64 Billion (£57.4 Billion) in the next five years. Now that the barrier of entry has been reduced, thanks to brands such as StockX and Crepe City, anyone can participate and consider themselves a reseller. But depending on your ability to obtain sort after sneakers will determine profits a seller can make.
What’s driving the resale market?
It’s no secret that particular types of sneakers tend to do well in the resell market, it’s simple economics. Supply and demand. In regards to growth, one key element is the commodity type that has allowed consistent interest in the last 10 years. We wouldn’t be far off to say, that the following commodity types that have kept the market flourishing.
A sneaker collab is typically the co-creation of a signature sneaker, either from two brands (manufacturers such as Jordan and Dior) or someone of cultural or societal relevance/influence (celebrity, musician, sports star/establishment or cultural figure). Usually, the leading manufacturer will offer a popular sneaker as a blank canvas to which the co-creator will have creative control to produce a sneaker that is feasibly possible to produce by the manufacturer. The sneaker produced from the partnership only has a limited amount, which instantly makes them valuable on the resell market (depending on the collab). Beyond the cultural impact, collaborations are a great marketing strategy to expand the reach of a brand(s) to a new audience or market. And a great way of doing this is to leverage a loyal fan-base to buy into a product. A good example of this would be Jordan 1 Retro High Travis Scott, which were released in 2019 for the retail price of $175 (£128.97). Because of the unique design of a backwards Nike swoosh, on top of Travis Scott’s mega-stardom, the sneaker spiked in demand. So much so, according to StockX, the sneaker is currently valued at £1,100-£1,800 at resell. That’s roughly a 753%-1,300% return on investment in a 2 year period.
Re-releases are sneakers that were once classified as deadstock sneakers are reproduced by a manufacturer for retail purchase. If the sneaker is making a return after a long period of time, it’s highly likely that the sneaker has some sort of cultural relevance that evokes nostalgia or emotion from a community. Typically, sneakers of this criteria are produced in limited numbers to maintain the exclusivity and rarity of the sneaker, which allows it to maintain it’s high commodity value. A good example of this would be the Nike MAG, Back to the Future (2016) edition. The sneakers made its first appearance in the Back to the Future sequel, in the famous scene when Marty was getting ready to drive the Delorean. Since then, there were infinite rumours of Nike making the sneakers available for sale, but they were officially released in 2011. That’s a 22-year wait. They were later released again in 2016 on limited stock. Aside from the connection to the iconic film, sneaker enthusiasts were more fascinated with self-lace technology that was displayed in the film. Because of the nostalgic connotations and extreme rarity, these sneakers are in crazy demand. The initial retail price is quite unknown, but on the resell market, a UK size 8 could potentially set you back a whopping £64,000.
Deadstock, are sneakers that have been discontinued by the manufacturer due to any reason. This is quite common for manufacturers to gain attention from a community. These could potentially be re-released in the future but its not a definitive fact. While the colourway is limited this will usually keep the resale price high (depending), but when more are produced this can affect the price as more are accessible on the market. Another example of deadstock, are brands that are likely not to collaborate again. A prime example of this would be between Nike and Yeezy. These influential brands created the very iconic Nike Air Yeezy 2 Red October in 2014, for which they retailed for $250 (£184.33). Because of unfortunate business and ethical disputes regarding royalties earned from sales, this forced the brands to part ways. According to StockX, the Red October’s are currently valued at £6,000- £9,000. That is roughly a 3000%-5000% return on investment within a 7 year period.
Pushing the industry forward
Throughout the article so far we’ve discussed the factors that keep the resale market ticking a day-to-day basis, but we also have to give credit where it is due, for the entities that surround the market and help feed into the hysteria of what the market is today.
As mentioned earlier, a lot of resellers heavily relied on platforms like eBay to find customers and generate sales. But very quickly a dark cloud began to emerge over the industry because of the unscrupulous individuals who falsely advertise counterfeit or replicators for fraudulent gain. Taking advantage of eBay’s loopholes within their policies at that time. Since then, platforms have been created to reduce fraudulent transactions amongst innocent sneaker buyers and vendors.
Despite officially opening its warehouse doors in 2015, StockX quickly ascended to become the best platform to buy and sell. Aside from its useful platform features, what is most unique was it’s authenticity process. This authentication process required the vendor to send in the sneaker or item to StockX to be tested before being shipped to the buyer. If it passed the test, then an authentication tag was attached and shipped to the buyer. This began to shift the stigma, unfortunately, it didn’t completely eradicate the problem at hand. Scammers started sourcing higher quality fakes, and unhappy customers started surfacing on Reddit. They even went as far as creating fake authentication tags. But these fakes slipping through the cracks are far and few in between, as StockX reported that less than 3% of their customers were unhappy, showing strong credibility to their process.
An important influential factor in the hype of the resell market has to be the publications that cover it. This has become such an area of interest, media corporations have dedicated departments and websites are launching solely reporting news submerged within the culture. A great example would be SoleSupplier, a UK publication aimed at providing accurate sneaker news and release dates for the UK and European market. According to SimilarWeb, thesolesupplier.co.uk generates 1.4 million users a month, on average. This shows the vast interest this industry has. The purpose-driven content is geared towards manifesting hype around sneaker releases, obtaining hard to get information which fuels the demand. But publications like SoleSupplier don’t just leave you high and dry, they go the extra mile to source reputable retailers and online stores their users can visit to purchase upon release.
We have to give honorary dues to the offline contribution to the industry’s growth. Thanks to the help of the interest, it has become the norm to connect buyers and sellers from all over the world, but being able to do that under one physical roof is no easy feat. Especially in the thousands. This output from the industry really diminishes the level of unknown, especially from a buyers perspective, as they get to interact with the vendors and actually inspect the sneakers themselve. From a vendor’s perspective, there’s personable engagement with customers that you wouldn’t necessarily get through an online platform. Brands like Crepe City, Sneakerness, Lace Out and Sneaker Con do this exceptionally well. Each brand has a strong presence within their chosen markets (Country). Crepe City and Lace Out host events in the UK, Crepe City mainly residing in London and Manchester, where Lace Out solely holds events in Liverpool. Sneakerness services the European market, organising events within many fashion capitals, such as Milan, Paris, Amsterdam and more. Sneaker Con mainly covers North America, such as American and Canadian states. However, in recent years, Sneaker Con has branched out further a field, organising events in the APAC market, such as Sydney, Shanghai and Tokyo. These events are generating sneakerheads within the thousands, and according to Sneaker Con, the brand has hosted over 1 million attendees and vendors since its conception in 2009. Read our article on sneaker events to attend.
Last but not least, retail stores that specialise in the reselling of sneakers. In 2021 this is a common phenomenon where vendors are opening bricks and mortars stores to conduct business. An unorthodox business proposal I might agree, but in today’s climate, can be very successful. Presented By (Crep Protect), Flight Club and Stadium Goods, are just a few brands we can name who have seen success. According to Highsnobiety, in 2017, Stadium Goods turned over $100 million (£73.7 million) and was later acquired by Farfetch for a staggering $250 million (£184.2 million). This deal was to allow Stadium Goods to leverage Farfetch’s technology, distribution network and giant customer-base to expand the business. This shows how bigger brands, and even venture capitalists see the growth potential of the industry and getting in early before the market reaches its cap. But to caveat, these retail stores have to ensure that their inventory contains items of interest, this means sorting high demand stock, at or near retail price to see great returns.
The future of the resellers market
The growth of the resell industry in the next five years seems to be promising, with leading brands obtaining significant capital from larger brands or investment firms. We would assume the $64 billion market valuation is largely linked to the sale performance these brands can acquire through online channels within existing or new markets. As we’ve seen with Sneaker Con and their expansion into the APAC market, these markets are close to being mature, if not already there. According to data from SimiliarWeb, just over 3% of stadiumgoods.com traffic comes from Mexico (South America) and Australia (APAC), which have potential to grow further with marketing activity. And due to unfortunate events such as Covid-19, this has undoubtedly pushed the market online, where brands like StockX and Stadium Goods will benefit the most. But this does come at the detriment of smaller vendors, as offline channels are temporarily suspended, massively impacting brands such as Crepe City and Sneakerness.
With such a massive valuation being placed on the industry, its to be expected that unscrupulous organisations will try to get their share, with more investment into manufacturing better quality counterfeits to pass authenticity checks from the likes of StockX and other reputable establishments. This may require investment in expert personnel or technology in counterfeit detection. If this goes unhandled this may ruin the potential of the market, or even worse, bring the industry right back to square one