Sun, Jun 24, 2018 - Page 15 News List

Booming market for luxury sneakers proves their appeal

From tweens to middle-aged men, high-end kicks have turned into an at least US$1 billion business that has gone global and even has its own ‘stock exchange’

By Catherine Triomphe AFP, NEW YORK

Sneakers wrapped in plastic are displayed at Stadium Goods in New York on June 6.

Photo: AFP

Christian, aged 10, has 20 pairs of high-end sneakers in his closet at his home in the suburbs of New York.

Maxance, who just turned 14, asked his parents for an US$800 pair of Adidas AG shoes for his birthday. He did not get them.

“We live in a world where sneakers are basically works of art,” the teenager said.

The world is also one in which luxury sneakers — often limited-edition collaborations between the big names in sportswear and fashion labels, rappers or famous athletes — have become a coveted accessory for everyone from tween boys to middle-aged men.

Some pairs fetch tens of thousands of dollars — the super-rare Derek Jeter Air Jordan 11, named for the New York Yankees superstar — were going for about US$50,000 in the past few weeks. Only five pairs were released.

Such shoes are bought second or thirdhand, mainly on the Internet, but also in chic boutiques or pop-up stores, packaged in plastic wrap to protect them.

New York is one of the capitals of this flourishing high-end sneaker culture, although the trade in trainers is hardly new. It began in the 1990s — when Nike Inc made it big with the first Air Jordans, made for legendary basketball star Michael Jordan, which quickly became must-have collector’s items.

Then in the 2000s, the market grew as the Internet boomed, especially on auction sites like eBay.

Today, boosted by celebrities, social media influencers and the mainstream influence of rap culture, the sneaker biz has gone global. It is particularly big in the US, Europe and Asia.

Since 2016, it even has its own “stock exchange” — Web site StockX.

The actual size of the luxury sneaker market is hard to estimate, but one thing is clear — “that market has had nice growth,” NPD Group Inc sports industry analyst Matt Powell said.

Even if it is centered on a few key industry players, the market is fed by a mass of small-time vendors — many of them sneaker addicts themselves looking for a quick way to make extra cash.

“Estimates of the resale market is that it’s at US$1 billion,” Powell said, adding that it is still a “pretty small sliver” of the overall athletic shoe market, which last year hit US$38 billion in the US and US$100 billion worldwide.

However, for John McPheters, president and cofounder of Stadium Goods, a mainly online business that opened what has become one of New York’s most popular sneaker stores in Soho in late 2015, these estimates are way too low.

Stadium Goods last year sold more than US$100 million in shoes, McPheters said.

Sales have at least doubled this year, in what he said is a healthier market now that certificates of authenticity have become the norm.

“What we are doing today is really just scratching the surface of what is going to be an even bigger business in the years to come,” the 38-year-old said.

The future plans of McPheters and Stadium Goods are a good indication of the luxury sneaker market’s potential and worldwide appeal.

While Internet sales account for 90 percent of the firm’s total for now, it plans to open several more actual stores in the US and abroad.

China is its largest market outside the US, followed by Britain and Canada, McPheters said.

Thanks to a partnership with Britain-based online fashion platform Farfetch, Stadium Goods is hoping to soon break into the Russian market.

Matt Troisi, 29, is a regular customer at Stadium Goods — he owns about 300 pairs of sneakers — and an experienced buyer and seller online. He is convinced the market is huge and about to explode.

This story has been viewed 3089 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top