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Is the sneaker resell market dead? It really depends

Is it curtains for the sneaker resell market?

Those Yeezys don’t move like they used to. But, they still move. We’ve all taken Ls on the front end. We’ve all made purchases on the backend.

But, are we attacking the apps with the same veracity? Are we tapping those resellers with the same level of urgency?

The sneaker resell market, like many others, may be going through a bit of a correction, at the moment. And, is that a huge surprise? 

Rising interest rates amid inflation. 
Global supply chain issues.
Oversaturation and constant misses.
And the frequent dialogue around all of these factors.

As a result, many resellers are dropping prices to keep up with consumer reticence and an increased focus on the “essentials.”

Those Yeezys don’t move like they used to. But, they still move. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, resale sneaker prices hit 40 – 50% above retail. These prices, which may also become a heel to sneakerhead activity, have simmered to an average of 24% markup in recent months. 

But, resellers and nearby analysts remain optimistic about longevity. Some (like StockX and investment firm Cowen) estimate the global resell market will hit $30 billion by the start of the next decade. That’s “billion” with a “b.”

This confidence could be tied to the community. 

Sneaker culture has been around for decades. 

It’s strong and heavily embedded – from entertainment to pro sports to prevalent digital and social media pockets.

Brands and the sneakerheads that support them have built an inclusive space with a spectrum of consumers and tastemakers – from the casual to the die-hard. Sneaker culture represents belonging and being part of something.

However, this community – like society overall – is adjusting to another shift. Sneakerheads are returning to IRL events, programming and encounters. 

Many are likely navigating this transition with an eye on the macroeconomy and whiplash from a litany of automated transactions, steep prices, product authenticity worries, and long wait times

Last week, Nike disclosed that inventory in the U.S. grew 65% (year-over-year), the impact of a rebounding production channel.

After navigating limited supply in 2021, the behemoth has multiple seasons landing stateside at once, particularly in clothing. This will lead to overflow discounts and deals – yet another consideration sitting atop collectors’ minds.

Nostalgia revitalized the market. Perhaps, nostalgia can sustain the market.

We’re seeing some valiant efforts to innovate the market through subscription services (KYX, Sneakertub, and FTL) and fractional investment (Rares). 

But, again, the sneaker resell market community is seeking connection and access.

The next innovation may not be about app UX or packaging but instead zeroed in on the consumer XP. 

Perhaps this is why we’ve seen an uptick in brick-and-mortar resale storefronts. LA’s Cool Kicks has made a splash since doors opened through crafty social media, giveaways, and challenges and content – all focused on in-store (or right out front of the store) experiences and fun. The iconic Flight Club recently reopened following a long hiatus. 

Other new entrants like Impossible Kicks, which labels itself as the nation’s largest brick and mortar reseller, are also bursting onto the scene.

“IK” as customers may know them, boasts elevated storefronts, reps hired for their customer service XP just as much as their knack for discerning authentic products, and a balanced inventory of men’s and women’s inventory that ranges from $80 to $50,000. 

“Consumers would rather shop in person,” said John Mocadlo, Impossible Kicks COO and Co-founder.

“With so many products in the market, they want an opportunity to explore and sample – new and especially old styles and collections – talk to the experts, and not only partake but share these new attainable-yet-luxury experiences with their community.” 

The Impossible Kicks franchise expects to open its 16th and 17th stores in October – just 19 months after its February 2021 founding. According to Mocadlo, each of its existing stores averages approximately $4 million in sales. 

impossible kicks store

Perhaps this is a small indication of what a carefully curated shopping experience can do for buyer confidence.  

So. Is the sneaker resell market dead?
It depends… on who you speak to. 

Consumers may be stepping away from or spending less on luxury and speculative items. But they’re still spending. They’re still showing up at major events, taking selfies in front of notable storefronts, and looking to share these experiences via digital and social channels.

And, at least for now, they’re still supporting brands and platforms that support them. Nostalgia for legacy brands and retro releases revitalized this market. 

Maybe a throwback approach to meaningful shopping experiences can sustain the sneaker resell market.