The rise of the newest trade: sneaker resale

Traditional Footlocker and Nike stores are no longer where consumers are looking to shop for sneakers. People are turning away from larger companies and seeking individuals and small businesses — as well as mail order — to purchase their sneakers and streetwear needs. And in some cases, they don’t mind paying more. 

“When customers cannot find their desired product at retailers because it is sold out or not officially released, one of three things happen: they are forced to settle for the next best thing, continue to search mall after mall, or remain empty-handed,” says Ferguson.

Ferguson of SolesbyFergLLC began his business just as this trade became popular. Buying and selling sneakers, while usually simple, can become extremely intricate if you are unfamiliar with the community. But he quickly realized that the shift in this industry for both the producers and consumers was just a change in the supply chain. 

“I started reselling about three years ago and never looked back,” he says. “I honestly didn’t intend for my business to be where it is today; it all sort of happened over night.”

Typically, the process of obtaining these latest sneakers for retail price means waking up extra early to stand in line or count down milliseconds to submit a preorder online. It’s safe to say that the industry has grown to be as modern as its consumers. However, there are still holes that individual sellers work to patch. 

By asking members of the sneakerhead community and the company employees who stock the resellers’ inventory indirectly, Ferguson learned there was an entire community of consumers unable to source the show-stopper shoes that were trending on social media.

“Sneakerhead” refers to the individuals who base their fashion style and wardrobe around sneakers of limited quantity and unique design. Larger companies have acknowledged the sudden influx in participation in the community and created their own space in the fashion industry by way of online presence through middle-manning platforms like eBay, Grailed, GOAT, and more. 

To avoid long lines and risk not getting the shoes on time during the drop online, second-hand retailers like Stockx and GOAT have created online platforms for the buying and selling of the wanted drops. The downside: customers run the risk of receiving unauthentic duplicates of sneakers. 

A member of this community, Tyler Munne, recounts a time he attempted to resell his Air Jordan 1 Royal Toe sneakers which he had purchased from an online second-hand retailer, only to be told they were fakes. “There are certain things on the sneaker like the tags and branding inside that instantly tells you if they’re fake or not, but who’s going to see any of that when shopping online,” says Munne. 

What sets individual resellers apart from these large companies is the trust in authenticity.

Behind purchasing fake sneakers, there are many more moving parts that complicate the process, such as not being able to return the item or receive a refund, delaying obtaining the authentic pair, and all of which means an overall waste of time.

“On the other hand, no matter what, I can either outsource the item or point the client in the right direction, leaving them stress-free,” says Ferguson.

To the general eye, sneakers are easily accessible and do not require hundreds of dollars to be spent on one pair alone. However, to sneakerheads, this multi-step luxurious experience is more than a piece of an outfit. 

The answer lies in expressing oneself both in an authentic and individual way.

Individual sellers and retailers have taken over the world of fashion for your feet. Now, rather than waiting in line for hours at a time at a Nike store for the latest sneaker drop, sneakerheads are seeking these sellers who do all the dirty work for you.

These sneakers are not your average Converse tennis shoe or Air Jordan release; they are valued and sought out for more because of the pop-culture names collaborating in the design of the sneakers and the unique silhouettes and limited amounts that come with these drops.

Pop-culture star, and rapper, Travis Scott’s sneaker collaboration with Air Jordan shows how popular and even how competitive the sneaker game can get. Released in 2018 for $225, the Travis Scott x Air Jordan 4 Retro ‘Cactus Jack’ sneaker now resells on sites like GOAT for over $900.

Now, resellers will follow trends, drops, and popular pop-culture figures to see what the hottest sneaker will be. They take charge of the inventory, so no client has to deal with the added stress. 

“Research, research, research is very important; staying in front of trends before they blow up can maximize one’s profit. Watching what celebrities and influencers are buying and wearing usually helps with this process,” says Ferguson. 

As the community grows, these resellers have continued to evolve alongside it. Resellers are also beginning to take over the brick-and-mortar side of sneaker sales, by bringing their skills storefront. 

In Miami, these in-person retailers are on the rise. With stores like Handpicked, Kicks Daily, and Sole Executive, it is no longer a matter of making it more accessible for sneakerheads, but of influencing the general community to look into and even purchase their first daily-use collector’s item.

Passionate about their craft and the community they have created, sneaker resellers have not only boosted the sneaker industry both in sales and popularity, but they have also changed the game, finding new ways to source and sell fashion pieces in a way that can be a win for both the consumer and seller. 

Gabriela Salinas is a bilingual student journalist at Florida International University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Digital Journalism on a pre-law track. She has gained experience in the legal and communications field through internships at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.