Fila; Nike; Puma; Saucony; Yeezy; Rachel Mendelson/Insider
- Inflation and high inventory have created the perfect environment for new sneaker collectors.
- Resale-price premiums have dipped on most models and new colorways.
- Nike is still the top brand, but collectors are eyeing others, like New Balance and Saucony.
Macroeconomic conditions like high inflation and rising inventory levels have created the perfect environment for a new era of sneaker collectors.
The problems plaguing the sneaker industry — lingering supply-chain bottlenecks, higher inventory and inflation, and shifting consumer demand — are working in favor of the sneaker collector who has cash to burn.
“Resale appetite and volume for Nike and Yeezy are believed to have shrunk, potentially affecting prices and margins in that channel as it absorbs industry shocks including Adidas’s Yeezy partnership termination with Kanye West and Nike’s lawsuit against a leading Resale channel,” the investment bank Cowen wrote in a December analyst note, referring to the resale site StockX.
Chris Burns, a sneaker analyst and the founder of Arch-USA, told Insider reselling was slowing considerably and that it opened the door for customers to buy shoes at retail they would have paid higher resale prices for earlier in the pandemic — namely, the Air Jordan 1.
The Air Jordan 1 “Dark Mocha” was released in fall 2020.
Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images
Buying any type of Jordan 1 “was just bananas during the pandemic and post-quarantine,” Burns said. But he predicts resale will return to pre-pandemic stability, where shoes jumped in price only when they were completely out of stock. In 2023, the average sneaker consumer will also likely be less enthusiastic with so many drops set to come.
Of course, some popular shoes will still sell out. Even as Nike works to deplete a 44% rise in excess inventory it reported in September, its shoes like the Panda Dunk and Air Force 1 still perform well.
Sneakers are easier to get
Most shoes have become relatively easy to get, said a sneaker collector who goes by Sockjig and is the host of the “Sockjig Sneaker Podcast.” And the system has gotten fairer, all things considered.
Sure, the few drops that went wrong did get oversize attention last year. The fashion boutique Union Los Angeles released a Jordan 2 collaboration shoe with Nike and charged customers for every attempt to purchase a shoe. Months later, millions of sneakerheads attempted to enter the Nike Snkrs app draw for the Jordan 1 “Lost and Found,” but the app crashed, leaving many empty-handed.
“But if you extract that, it’s like everything else this year was not that hard to get. Some of it even went on sale,” Sockjig said.
While companies like Nike released shoes in higher stock in 2022, they still release what Sockjig calls “unicorn” shoes in lower quantities to the public to build hype for the brand. These sneakers are most often done in collaboration with musical artists like Travis Scott or a popular boutique like Union LA or Concepts.
Sneakerheads new to the Snkrs app might have a better chance of getting one of those “unicorn” shoes, Sockjig said.
“Nothing’s officially ever been said by Nike, but anecdotally, they reward new users because they want people to get that fix,” he said. “So go for it, and you might get that unicorn sneaker on your first try.”
Nike did not return a request for comment on the app.
The shoe brand may be a juggernaut in sneakers, but many other brands, like Saucony, New Balance, and Asics, are also producing shoes worth buying.
“You can buy a $60 pair of Sauconys, and you’ll be blown away by the quality, where you buy a $130 pair of Dunks, and you might be disappointed in the quality,” Nick Engvall, a cohost of the “Sneaker History Podcast” and the senior creative director at Stadium Goods, said.
Speaking of Dunks, many casual customers became sneakerheads by purchasing Nike Dunks earlier in the pandemic. While the “Panda” Dunk, in black and white, has plenty of haters who note that it’s mass-produced and restocked constantly, it’s the type of shoe that may introduce newcomers to sneaker culture.
“A lot of people probably have a love-hate relationship with the Panda Dunk, but I think it’s great because it’s a shoe that people that are not paying attention to sneakers can grasp on to and say, ‘Oh, this is something that I like, and now maybe I want to be a part of this community,'” Engvall said.
Saucony is a popular brand among sneaker collectors following casual-fashion trends.
Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images
Embracing the art of sneaker discovery
Most sneakerheads advise newer collectors to start off by buying what they like and support local boutiques stocking their favorite brands.
Online, there’s a ton of resources for new collectors, so many that it might be overwhelming. Many collectors follow Twitter and Instagram accounts dedicated to sharing sneaker-release news and surprise drops of highly anticipated shoes.
Engvall encourages new collectors to branch out beyond social-media accounts that cover Nike to ones covering New Balance and Saucony, which don’t have as much competition for sneakers.
Of course, don’t expect to hit on every release. It’s simply part of the game. While sneakerheads don’t need to worry about bots as much as they did in the past, the demand for shoes stacks the deck against individual buyers.
“It’s almost like you have to hop on, like, the spinning kind of amusement-park ride, and you have to try for all releases and hope you did say 50 to 60% of them,” Sockjig said. “For someone new getting into sneakers, that might be a little overwhelming.”
Burns said it’s important to take a day and go into retail stores to find gems not available online. The Snkrs and Adidas Confirmed apps have acclimated users to purchasing online and all but killed the art of discovery in sneakers.
“Nike’s biggest sin is the fact that they’ve taken the focus off of stores. And they’ve placed the emphasis on the Snkrs app,” Burns said. “Because the Snkrs app works the way it does, and things sell out there, people assume it is sold out in the stores. They don’t even go check the stores anymore.”