How to Invest in the $10B Shoe Resale Market
For many, sneakers aren’t a casual shoe to cover your feet. They’re a dead-serious investment opportunity.
Celebrity stylist and acclaimed sneakerhead Tyrina Lee was sifting through hundreds of shoeboxes when she came across one of her favorite pairs of all time: the Off-White x Air Jordan 2s.
Lee has been a personal stylist for music stars in cities such as Atlanta and Los Angeles for 10 years. But when it comes to buying shoes for her clients, she always comes back to the Jordan 2s, first released in 1986.
Not because of their fantastic silhouette.
Not because you can wear them with anything.
But because their value keeps growing.
When first released in November 2021, the Off-White x Air Jordan 2 retailed at $250. Since then, the value of the sneaker has jumped to as high as $3,400 and currently sits around $1,900.
Not bad for a pair of shoes hanging out in a box.
This isn’t some one-off story, however – Lee’s experience reflects a ballooning investment niche where some consider a pair of Nike or Adidas a better growth opportunity than the companies that make them.
Mining Old Shoeboxes for Gold
The U.S. new-sneaker market was worth $21 billion in 2019, according to data from research firm Cowen; globally, that market was valued at $100 billion.
The resale market – where everyday investors can make hay – isn’t as big, but it’s swelling. Research firm Piper Sandler estimates that the resale market grew to $10 billion in 2020 from $6 billion in 2019. The aforementioned Cowen report also projected the resale market could reach $30 billion by 2030.
Several factors are commonly cited as contributing to the growth of this nascent market. These include the sharing and discovery of sneakers via social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok; the pandemic; and even the release of the documentary series The Last Dance chronicling Michael Jordan and the Bulls dynasty of the 1990s.
Yu-Ming Wu, the founder of Sneaker News and CMO of sneaker resale company Stadium Goods, explained that once the documentary aired, he “saw Jordans that hadn’t moved for months or years instantly wiped out overnight.”
Lee believes that the accessibility to shoes – especially marginalized people gaining access to the sneakers of their choice – is the most important factor in the resale market’s rise.
“Sneakers are more accessible to people now,” Lee says. “Certain people can afford more, but at the same time, others have access to the same shoes that [didn’t before].”
Before the pandemic, buyers would wait in lines at sneaker stores so they could enter a lottery system to win the right to purchase a pair of shoes. Now, these store lotteries have come online, making them far easier to access. And leading shoe brands have lotteries themselves now – Nike’s SNKRS app, for instance, allows you to create an account, set reminders for shoe releases, bid on shoes, and if successful, purchase them. Even some third parties have established shoe lotteries.
So, why is this ecosystem rapidly taking off?
Consider the growth demonstrated by third-party seller apps such as StockX, which allows you to buy everything from shoes to trading cards. In a 2022 study released by the resell company, they found that on their site “nearly 80% of Jordan sneakers have gained resale value over the last 12 months. By contrast, just 52% of stocks in the Dow 100 are worth more than they were.”
An extreme example of just how lucrative the shoe resale market can be is the Nike Dunk SB Low Paris. This pair of shoes were priced at $69 when they were originally released; as of this writing, they are worth $450,000. That’s a return of roughly 652,070%.
More recently, on April, 26, the Bad Bunny x Adidas Forum Low “Blue Tint” was released at $160. They’re now reselling anywhere from $475 to $1,220. A return of about 29% - 61% in just three months.
Lee typically resells her shoes via Stockx. For instance, she recently sold a pair of lime green Jordan 1s for $400 – after having bought them for $200. That doubler is actually less than the windfall from her typical sale, which she says runs around 200% to 450%.
How Do You Start Reselling Shoes?
Would-be sneaker investors need to start with research: knowing which ones are selling and which ones aren’t. Websites like eBay and Stockx will show each shoe ever produced, how much they are selling for, and their market movements.
Next, look through your closet – you never know what hidden gold rests in dusty shoeboxes... Think Antiques Roadshow: People find treasures hiding in their homes all the time.
Check out local thrift stores and garage sales, too. Many people aren’t going to be in the know about which shoes are hot on the resale market. If you’ve done your research, you could end up scoring a few gems at bargain-basement prices. Remember that conditions matters: The closer your sneakers are to unworn and in their original box, the higher the resale. So don’t get too excited about a pair of scuffed-up kicks in a basket at a yard sale, even if they are a desired model.
If you’re willing to throw more money at buying, enter a lottery. As of this writing, the Nike SNKRS app shows two color options of the Jordan 2s and four different color options of the Nike Dunks under “upcoming shoe releases.” These resell anywhere from $200 to $20,000!
Once it’s time to sell, you’ve got a few options. The easiest way is to use a third-party app like eBay. GOAT, Flight Club, and Stockx. While the interfaces are different, they all generally allow you to set a sell price, send your shoes to their warehouse, have their sneaker experts authenticate the sneakers, then get paid once the shoes are bought and paid for.
Remember: With every reward comes risk. Good luck!