Every three months, with the help of our friends over at StockX (formerly known as Campless), we list the most expensive sneakers to hit the resell market that quarter.
We ran our first report in the opening months of 2015, which was, incidentally, the same time that Kanye West released his first shoe with adidas.
The YEEZY Boost 750 was the second-most expensive release of 2015 Q1, with an average resell price of $1,416. It was only beaten by the ultra-rare, China-exclusive Nike Air Foamposite "Tianjin," which came out on top with an average price of $1,694.
Since then, we've seen more and more adidas releases entering the upper echelons of the resell market — and not just ones associated with Kanye West. Limited NMDs and Ultra BOOSTs have been killing it with resellers, often commanding way higher prices than exclusive Swoosh and Jumpman drops.
"adidas continues to execute the model pioneered and perfected by Nike and Jordan Brand over the past 30 years: keep supply less than demand," Josh Luber, StockX's CEO explains.
"There is high inherent demand for YEEZYs, Pharrell NMDs and other NMDs because they are good products and they're tied to influential celebrities, but demand is further increased because the product is limited, which means more sneakerhead significance and therefore higher resell prices."
That's hardly a groundbreaking strategy; give a product a celebrity co-sign and produce it in limited numbers and you're guaranteed to have a hit on your hands. What's more interesting, though, is that shoes from adidas's mainline have made it onto sneakerheads' wishlists as well: highly limited versions of the NMD and Ultra BOOST have killed it this year.
It's not like either Nike or Jordan are lacking in shoes that can create hysterical demand at the drop of a hat — the two brands have been top of the sneakerhead game for decades now — so how come adidas is beating them at their own game?
For sneakerheads, the value of a shoe is determined by how limited it is. So long as it's got the right logo on it, people will pay top dollar for a limited edition shoe; and the rarer it is, the more resellers can charge for it. adidas has basically broken into the resell market because it's producing highly limited shoes with hugely influential celebrities, at a time when Nike isn't.
Take, for example, the Air Jordan IV "Obsidian," which was the only Jordan or Nike product to make it into the top 10 most expensive shoes of the quarter. "It's only in the top 10 because it had a very high retail price of $400," Josh explains. "The shoe was not limited enough to cause the additional demand spike usually associated with very limited shoes."
If Nike wanted to really cause a stir on the resell market, it would have produced shoes like the "Obsidian" IV in much lower quantities — but it didn't. "The average resell price premium for the seven adidas shoes in the top 10 of Q3 was 280%," Josh explains. "The one Jordan shoe was 39%."
adidas has some great shoes, sure, but they're making them really, really exclusive — and therefore really, really valuable to resellers — while Nike is maximizing its own profits and going for volume. "This isn't to say that Nike and Jordan aren't maximizing their business more effectively than adidas in the retail sector, but it does suggest that Nike and Jordan have, at least temporarily, ceded the top of the sneakerhead pyramid to adidas," Josh explains.
The resell scene is just a tiny part of the footwear industry. adidas might be out-hyping the Swoosh these days, but Nike owns the market: its Q1 earnings for 2016 were a colossal $9.1 billion, nearly twice that of adidas. At the beginning of last year, NIKE Inc. (that's Nike, Jordan, Converse etc.) owned 48% of the American athletic footwear market. A few limited edition adidas drops won't change that.
However, the sneakerhead world is a leader in trends and it has a lot of influence over the more fashionable end of the footwear market (how many red sneakers did you see after the Red Octobers dropped?). adidas's recent power moves show that it isn't messing around these days — in fact, NPD Group recently declared that adidas has reclaimed its #2 spot in the American sportswear market.
Nevertheless, the Three Stripes has got a very, very long way to go if it wants to claim Nike's place as the biggest sportswear brand on the planet.
For further reading, check out The 10 Most Expensive Sneakers of 2016 Q3.