They were once made as comfortable sneakers, but in the meantime a world of rarity and exorbitant prices are also hidden behind something you see every day on the street: sneakers. For collectors, some specimens are art. This brings big business with it.
At the end of October, a pair of sneakers were sold at the famous auction house Sotheby’s for a record amount of 1.26 million euros. The reason: For over 30 years, they’ve been sitting around Michael Jordan’s feet during an NBA game.
Expensive prices for a collector’s item, we’re not really surprised. But also behind brand-new sneakers – often made for a fraction of the selling price in low-wage countries – the big companies are hidden. The components of this business model are rarity and a good story.
In 2020, Nike released the exclusive shoe “Air Dior” with the fashion house Dior. Starting at a starting price of €2,000, this special edition of one of the classics from the Nike collection, the Air Jordan 1, can be purchased.
Focusing on can, because in total, according to the CEO of Dior, 5 million people tried to get hold of some limited editions.
“Nike is the king of those sneakers right now,” says Gary Terclavers. Following his career, the Belgian former professional basketball player started an American sportswear store in Leuven and now has 11 stores across Europe.
“Without the American brand, you’re currently bankrupt as a sneaker seller, but Yeezy, rapper Kanye West’s designs currently released by Adidas, for example, are also entering the market for specialty sneaker enthusiasts.”
What do these “sneakers” have in common? Limited edition and beautiful story.
“Nike is really good at making up a story for everything,” says Terclavers. “Michael Jordan once scored 50 points while he was sick. They made him ‘flu game shoes.’ Jordan. All specialized sneakers come with a story.”
The good story is sold out, but the rarity drives up the price. Producers consciously offer a limited number of shoes to make the noise, but savvy fanatics with a nose for entrepreneurship can also get their share.
“As an official point of sale, for example, we receive 250 items of certain sneakers for our 11 stores in Europe,” says Gary Terclavers. “We have to sell it at the official price, for example, 150 euros or we will be taken off the Nike list. They are very strict about that.”
“Some guys get good side income from buying exclusive shoes and selling them for a lot. Some of these guys earn more from shoes than I do. The shoe resale market is huge.”
On the last day of October, Brussels hosts the Sneaker Mania fair, where everyone can buy and sell special sneakers. Resale prices sometimes swing out of control.
If you are not lucky enough to win Air Dior, you can get a second chance at specialized sites. Keep in mind that sometimes $20,000 is offered.
Fights in line and online hackers
Anyone who suddenly hears the ring of a cash register should know that it is not always easy to get new sneakers as a private individual.
Since the number is limited, official sellers often operate with online checkout. In this way they want to prevent the formation of long queues for shops, which often leads to tensions or direct fights.
“Since we’re doing this online, we’ve already seen our website crash because hackers are trying to get into the clouds with thousands of different names per second,” recalls Terclavers.
The market for niche sneakers has grown exponentially over the past five to seven years. Big brands have discovered that there is a lot of money to be made and influencers are being used to make the hype even bigger.
“The successful Netflix series ‘The Last Dance’ also provided a boost,” Teclavers says. “The market in Asia is definitely huge. That’s why shoe sizes smaller than 45 are often more expensive.”
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