With a growing amount of people interested in rare kicks and an increasing problem of online bots auto-copping all the best releases, we ask if resellers are ruining the sneakerhead game.

Deadstock sneakers are big business these days; just look at the shoes fetching up to $4,000 on the secondary market for proof. The resell game is rapidly expanding, driven by a growing sneakerhead community and record number of limited releases, but more drops and more resellers means getting your hands on a pair of hyped kicks isn’t as easy as it used to be. Gone are the days when a pair of Air Jordans would stay on the shelves for a few weeks; nowadays, high-profile releases are met with riots and week-long campouts, while frustrated sneakerheads are forced to pay large markups for sold-out kicks on the secondary market.

Does that mean resellers are ruining the sneaker game?

“Resellers who are only in the game to make a quick buck drive up prices and limit true collectors and fans from getting the shoes they want,” Matt Powell, footwear industry analyst at NPD Group tells us. “In a very limited way, resellers can connect collectors with shoes, but the collectors must pay an exorbitant price for that privilege.” And while that’s true, it’s worth remembering that many resellers are collectors themselves; just go down to your local sneaker convention (like Sneakerness in Amsterdam or NYC’s Sneaker Con) and ask any of the footwear fanatics manning the stalls.

“Resellers have always been a part of the sneakerhead community” Josh Luber from sneaker database Campless tells us. “But because the community and market has grown, it seems like they are more prominent these days.” Resellers are inevitable in any market where demand outweighs supply – from vintage wines to cocaine – and more often than not the real culprits are suppliers who deliberately restrict supply so that both price and demand remain high.

However, while some of the most hyped sneakers reach staggering prices (Kanye’s recently dropped Yeezy 350 Boost currently commands a 400% markup on eBay), if you’re just after a Retro Jordan or Quickstrike Nike release, chances are you won’t need to sell a limb in order to cop from the secondary market. According to Josh, “the Air Jordan 7 ‘Hare‘ released in May for $190 and its average price on eBay is now $253.” He continues, “for many people it’s worth $63 to not camp out or spend an hour driving to a store to enter a raffle – which they may not even win.”

Nike and Jordan Brand dominate the resell market (96% of rare sneakers on eBay are adorned with the Swoosh or Jumpman), and the Oregon giant uses some truly ingenious methods to make sure the hype doesn’t die down. “If there were no resellers, what would happen? Nike would continue to keep supply less than demand – that’s what drives the hype,” Josh told us. Any economist would agree; resellers are simply a side effect of limited supply and heightened demand.

“It still sucks when you can’t get a shoe you want at retail.” Josh told us. “And resellers are easy to blame. But let’s be honest, that’s the game. Do you really want a world with only general release sneakers?” That sums things up, really. Resellers are a pain, but an inevitable side effect of the market for limited edition footwear; and as brands view the buzz from exclusive releases as an essentially way to promote their main collections, don’t expect the market to slow down anytime soon.

For more sneakerhead content, check out the following pieces:

The Ingenious Methods Nike Uses to Control the Sneaker Resell Market
The 10 Most Valuable Sneakers of 2015 Q2
The 10 Most Valuable Sneakers of 2015 Q1
How Every U.S. State Ranks in Sneaker Reselling

Words by Alec Leach
Freelance Writer/Editor/Consultant

Alec Leach grew up in Brighton, England, but now lives in Berlin

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