When someone says they’re a sneakerhead, what they’re really saying is, ‘If I buy another pair of shoes, I’m going to have to find a bigger apartment.’ It’s no joke to say that sneakerheads spend a lot of money on sneakers, often as many as they can possibly fit into their closet, and then some. But how much exactly?
Well for starters, sneakerhead mecca StockX is now valued over $1B, and other online rare-sneaker marketplaces like GOAT and Flight Club are posting huge sales as they capture more of the market share. The bad news for brick and mortar retailers? The vast majority of these sales are online. Brick and mortar is quickly moving to capitalize, with Foot Locker’s eye-popping $100M investment into Goat and FarFetch’s acquisition of Stadium Goods in December 2018. While many details around these partnerships have yet to be announced, it’s clear that the retail market has taken notice and is trying to respond.
A big part of the why in the existence of sneakerheads is relatable to everyone who collects anything, whether it’s McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, antique action figures, or Pogs—rarity. A big draw is simply having something that other people want and obtaining something that’s hard to find. While many sneakerheads have GRs (general-release sneakers, or beaters) the actual collecting and sneakerhead-dom comes in with copping a rare piece, or something brand new and fresh on the market like, at the time of this writing, the Yeezy 350 Yeshaya, the Off White Nike Dunk Lows, or the Travis Scott Jordan 1s.
With that in mind, how can brick and mortar really capitalize on the growing influence of sneakers and those who’ll pay prices—however exorbitant—to acquire them? I put together three ways I think that brick and mortar sneaker retailers can capture and convert sneakerheads like me.
In-Store Sneaker Raffles
When brick and mortar retail stores like Foot Locker or Champs do get something rare into their inventory, I don’t show up to buy them. The reason is the sneakerhead’s worst enemy and best friend—the reseller. Whenever a new sneaker releases in limited quantities, resellers line up and down the block for a chance to purchase and flip these retail-price sneakers for big bucks on the aftermarket. I say best friend as well because, even though I’m going to pay a premium, I always know that if I don’t wait in line, I can scoop them up on StockX the next day. The resellers are doing the hard work for me.
To combat this, brick and mortar retail stores like Foot Locker can have in-store raffles where they hand out the goods to actual customers. Maybe in order to get a ticket, you have to have bought a pair of sneakers from Foot Locker in the last 30 days. Every sneakerhead also needs their beaters—their everyday sneakers—and this extra ‘price’ is already baked into the premium I’d pay on StockX. If I could get a pair of beaters and have a chance to cop a grail like the Off White Prestos, I’m in.
Reliable and Up-to-Date Sneaker Schedule
The most difficult part of the sneaker world is simply navigating it—knowing what is coming out when, where you can purchase it, and from whom. There are half a dozen sneaker companies putting out new pairs each week, from Nike to Adidas to Saucony and New Balance, and even more partnerships with brands: Nike x Off White, Adidas x Pharrell, New Balance x Kith. Where it gets hard is that there’s no one source of truth here, so it’s up to the consumer to learn and memorize release dates, put them into the calendar, and plan the method of attack.
If Foot Locker or another brick and mortar retailer put in the hard work here, aggregating every shoe company’s release schedule, then highlighting with a quick link on a web page or app showing which were available to buy there, it would quickly become a go-to source for sneakerheads (and help them sell some product, too).
Foot Locker, Champs, and others do a lot of events—a lot—and they’re awesome for the overall sneaker community. However, none of these events are specifically for sneakerheads, or for the collector of sneakers. One thing that these brands have that their online rivals don’t have is their stores, and their stores are ubiquitous. That these stores haven’t become a gathering space for sneakerheads and general sneaker lovers to celebrate the culture and to show off their collections is a missed opportunity.
What if one of these brands created a series of events specifically around rare sneakers—letting collectors sell pieces on consignment, letting sneaker lovers network, compare grails, and just meet one another and enjoy their passion together? I believe there is a real business opportunity here, especially if you tie in sneaker raffles to get people in the doors. I know I’d show up to an event if I thought there was a chance I could walk away with a pair of Shattered Backboards or Eminem 4s.
These are just a few ideas that should get brick and mortar retailers thinking. At the end of the day, there are hundreds of thousands of shoppers just like me who would love a brand to embrace our passion and create a space where we can celebrate our culture. Big brands acquiring or buying a stake in online retailers is a step forward, but one that has yet to materialize anything meaningful for people like me.