Resellers. The word alone usually incites some sort of rage among sneakerheads. But, what is it about the idea that some choose to profit off of the simple laws of supply and demand that bring out so much emotion in those who don’t?
We thought about that question and had a roundtable discussion with four successful New Jersey-based resellers - who work together in the same re-selling operation - to get their point of view. Names have been altered in order to preserve anonymity, but the information in their answers are honest and open. Read about these resellers’ tricks of the trade in Sneaker Resellers: Getting to Know the Guys Sneakerheads Love to Hate
Interview by Larry Gallagher (@Writing_Rambler)
What got you guys into reselling sneakers?
STEVE: I was 16 or 17 in 1999, and it just all started with wanting to get my sneakers for free. I remember just doing stuff like buying new pairs on discount at local stores and returning them to Niketown for full price store credits to get what I really wanted. It just evolved from there. As I got a little older, I landed a job at Footaction and made friends with local shops. Even back then, there were places selling new shoes that cost $100-$140 and they were selling them for $300 and the hood was loving it because even at a higher price he had what they wanted.
There are a lot of people angry at resellers, but they’re still willing to pay that extra to get what they want.
BILL: That’s what I’m saying.
STEVE: You can’t be mad at us because we provide a service.
MIKE: A convenience fee.
STEVE: Look, nowadays if you want a specific pair of shoes, you have to spend two or three days that week at the mall scoping out the store. You might have to sleep outside for a raffle ticket to just have a chance at spending $200 on a pair. You waste all that time and then go home praying they call you. You have to be out of your mind to do that.
You can’t be mad at us because we provide a service.
So break down the process for me. How do you get your supply and go about selling them?
JAKE: Before we even get bodies to get the shoes, we do the research. We’ll post things online and see what type of hype the shoe has. Figure out how available the shoe is going to be. Stuff like that. Then we take the steps to get pairs.
STEVE: The shoe could be doo doo brown and we’re still going sell it and make a profit. Not every reseller is like that. Honestly, I don’t even consider us resellers. I look at it as were giving the public what they want. The majority of resellers are only getting five or six pairs, and they’re trying to charge you and arm and a leg. We’re getting hundreds of pairs and selling at maybe $20-$30 over retail. I keep other resellers in my contacts, and I just label them as “retail reseller.” I know they can’t get rid of their pairs, and they will sell them to me at retail or below to get rid of them.
MIKE: We take it all, because we know how to sell it.
STEVE: If I’m giving you less money than you paid for something, then you’re in the wrong business, buddy.
BILL: I try to sell a lot, fast and for less than other resellers. Big amounts add up. I’d rather sell 100 pairs for $5 over than 20 pairs for $20 over.
JAKE: But now we’re talking about the regular general releases. If you’re talking about extremely limited shoes or the real quickstrikes, then, yeah, I’m selling for just as much as other resellers.
MIKE: Just put it like this: We have contacts at all types of levels. From corporate to the big stores to the little stores, we're talking with everyone.
BILL: We have one person in particular that will tell us if we need to charge more or less for something. He’ll hit us up and let us know what pre-orders are looking like, etc.
STEVE: I have one guy I call “The Wizard.” I could be lost driving somewhere in Montana, and I’ll call him and he’ll guide me turn by turn to a small shop that has a few pairs of a shoe hidden in the back of a store. I don’t know how he does it, but these are the type of people we’re working with to make sure we’re successful. As long as I get him his shoe for retail, we have no issues.
Contacts aside, how do you physically get so many pairs?
BILL: It used to be that we’d just call and say hold so many pairs for us, but now it’s more work. We get a bunch of people together go out and grab (raffle) tickets. People don’t think ahead. If you plan and take 50 people with you somewhere you might win 10 pairs. Especially if there’s like 300 pairs at a certain store.
JAKE: You can’t even get a pair on release day if you don’t start by at least Wednesday now. If you’re not joining one of these raffles, your chances are cut to near nothing.
MIKE: Like we were saying before: People complain, but 6 a.m. Saturday morning, I’m out there working to get those shoes. You can hit me up from your bed and not even have to wake up, and I’ll have your pair in your size. That’s what you’re paying for.
So it’s just you four?
MIKE: Yeah like on the day of release we'll have a good 25 people running around doing legwork, but it’s just us as far as organizing and running it all.
MIKE: I mean, basically, we built this organization, this pyramid. People get mad because we’re organized. On Mondays, we put our heads together about that coming week’s releases. We’re constantly talking and texting about what we need to do. I text these dudes more than I text my girl.
BILL: We have them out getting the tickets and securing pairs, and we make sure everything runs smooth.
STEVE: It’s the same way you run any successful business. But because were doing it with sneakers, people don’t like that.
JAKE: I’ve worked with stores before, too, and it never worked out because they didn’t want to work as a team. Just because you have a store doesn’t mean you know how to sell or be successful. A lot of these smaller joints are barely getting by. A lot of people don’t get it’s about building relationships and contacts, too. That’s how most of this gets done.
For something that’s not a general release. Say something real limited, how does the process change?
STEVE: Bribery. Straight up bribery.
MIKE: Honestly, that’s it. For the last LeBron Championship pack, I paid a store manager and he gave them to me. I resold them for more than I paid, and that was it. I mean it’s simple: Everybody’s gotta eat.
BILL: People don’t get paid enough to care about rules when it comes making serious money.
JAKE: When you got a pair selling for $3,000 and they know they can make $1,500-$2,000 easy, it’s hard to pass up a proposition like that.
People don’t get paid enough to care about rules when it comes making serious money.
MIKE: What we try to do is buy as many sneakers as we can for less. Like we’ll tell a store manager, “We'll take them all.” Easy for us and easy for them. Everyone is happy.
BILL: We get a lot of people who call us because of that, too. Because they know we’ll take everything at once. They’ll sell to us cheaper than they would others because we’re saving them the headache of dealing with all these different guys.
As far as general releases, do you have a set goal or number of pairs you’re looking to get or do you just want them all?
MIKE: Yeah, we’ll have a certain number we're aiming for depending on the shoe.
BILL: A lot of times, people will let us know ahead of time what they need from us. So we’ll have that idea already of what we need to get.
JAKE: We’ll do a lot of pre-orders, too, so we'll already know what we need in advance. Depending on the hype for the shoe, we may try to pick up an extra 10-15 pairs. But, for the most part, we already know what we’re getting.
BILL: There’s always certain things that get bigger than first expected, take the Jordan Futures for example. They built up this hype, and then people were paying $300-$400 a pair. But even that wasn’t too surprising. As they hit retailers, we saw how limited they were gonna be. Basically as soon as the shoes start arriving at the retailers, we’re finding out numbers and planning. So we’ll have a good two weeks to plan out. We’ll have stock guys at the stores counting how many boxes arrived so we can see how limited everything is. Everything gets planned out.
MIKE: It changes with every shoe. I mean usually were charging between $200-$250 for general releases. Unless it’s something really hyped like the Jordan XIs, then it’ll definitely be higher. Like the Carmines are dropping soon and those will definitely be at least $300-$350 because of all the hype.
BILL: We’ll put out our price, and we won’t break. You’ll see some people selling for much higher, and then they end up stuck with the shoe. And then they’re looking to return it. We never do that. That’s the problem with a lot of other resellers: They’re scared to set a price and stick to it. They get scared and then they question if they should buy pairs. Then they end up stuck with shoes. The worst we’ve ever done is selling something for retail - but we never take a loss on a shoe. You just don’t do that.
JAKE: As long as something is legitimately limited, we can usually get $100 on top of the retail price.
MIKE: Sometimes customers get mad at us because a shoe may not be as limited as they thought. They could have got up and went and sat on that line and paid retail, but they didn’t. And that’s why they’re paying us.
BILL: People are at home sleeping with their family, playing with their kids and we’re out here at 4 a.m., 6 a.m. working. Don’t be mad at me for that.
BILL: It’s the same thing online. They order a shoe and it may not arrive for a week. By that point, the price has dropped and they’re stuck with a shoe they can’t afford to hold onto because everyone is already onto the next release.
I think people get this misconception that if they just buy a bunch of sneakers they can get rich.
MIKE: Yeah. You have a limited window especially for the LeBrons, KDs, and Kobes. You have that first weekend, and then it’s onto whatever is dropping next week and you’re stuck with them.
BILL: Retros are where it’s at, though. We probably sold 160 pairs of the Powder Blue Air Jordan Xs and 100 of the Bobcats. You can always make money off of the retros. We’ll maybe sell 100 pairs that first Saturday, and then any extra pairs we pick up that first week.
What are the best sneakers on the resale market right now?
MIKE: No question, the Yeezys are the best sellers and easiest money.
STEVE: Jordan Retros. The XIs are number one. The hood loves shiny sneakers. Let me repeat, the hood loves shiny sneakers.
BILL: Original colorways or if they have the O.G. Nike Air on them. That’s guaranteed money.
STEVE: Yeah those O.G. Jordan retros are the best. Yeezys always sell, but you’re not selling Yeezys every Saturday.
MIKE: Shit, I wish I was.
BILL: It used to be Foams, but then they started with all these crazy prints and the hype died on them. We used to be able to sell 100-150 pairs in a weekend at $300-$350 a pair, easy.
MIKE: Nowadays its Foamposites and SBs.
STEVE: Yeah, SBs fell off the face of the earth.
MIKE: Any Reebok. Other than that first Shaq Attaq, nobody is hungry for Reebok. Too many colors. They’re pushing it too much. They’re trying too hard.
STEVE: Anything that’s not a retro Jordan sits.
BILL: Restocks kill shit, too. I mean: I love restocks, but it kills the hype.
STEVE: Nike’s problem is that they try and do restocks to stop the resellers, but we’re the only ones up on restocks before they happen. We still get what we need from it.
How do you feel about companies aggressively trying to shut guys like you down? Do you ever worry that it’s eventually gonna take money out of your pockets?
JAKE: I mean I know a dude that usually uses bots to get multiple pairs. He reached out to me the other day and asked how many pairs I can get him, because he said this new stuff they’re doing is going to kill the bots. So what they’re doing is definitely affecting online resellers, but I can’t see it affecting the way we do things because they can’t ever stop people from wanting to make money.
MIKE: Until you start paying people enough that thousands of dollars don’t matter to them, you ain’t ever going stop this.
So what type of money are you bringing in on a normal weekend?
BILL: On a regular release weekend after everything, we'll have about $4,000 profit to split between us.
JAKE: A bad weekend is like $2,000 total. A good one is like $4,000, and a great weekend is like $6,000.
STEVE: Now for say Christmas or All Star Weekend, we might make $2,000 each. I remember back when Foamposites were hot we were doing like $800 each by noon on Saturday. So it definitely varies.
BILL: Then on top of it, I’m getting my pair for free. That’s how it all starts for most of us. Just trying to get our own kicks for free and growing from there.
Have you ever been stuck with pairs you couldn’t sell?
STEVE: Honestly, we don’t get stuck. The worst we’ll do is selling for retail and even then we're making some money. We have a good system set up to make sure we always get rid of what we have.
BILL: We have a lot of other resellers buying from us. We’re your favorite reseller’s favorite reseller.
STEVE: Exactly. We’re doing bulk orders like wholesalers. That’s where our real money is. We’re trying to do 100 pairs to one person, 50 pairs to the next person. Every once in a while, we will sell individual pairs. But, for the most part, were trying to do large orders.
They are paying for a convenience. All this work, all this time and hours spent out in the cold; that adds up.
JAKE: Yeah, 'cause if you come at me for an individual sale, I’m charging you a lot.
So what’s the most you’ve flipped a shoe for?
MIKE: Gotta be the Yeezy IIs. Paid retail at $250 and sold them for $2500.
STEVE: I sold a used pair of Oregon Duck Air Jordan IIIs for $1,700. And those were beat up. I used to change tires in those.
JAKE: I got somebody looking to spend $3,000 on a pair of UNDFTD Jordan IVs right now.
MIKE: Honestly, I prefer selling hundreds of pairs of the general releases than a few high-end limited pairs. They’re harder to sell, and it’s much easier to find someone willing to spend $200 a pair than $2,000. In the long run, that’s where the real money is at.
A lot of people have assumptions about you guys. What do you think is the biggest misconception about resellers?
BILL: It’s not so much an assumption but it’s that people don’t appreciate the time we put in. They don’t value time.
JAKE: They definitely don’t get that time equals money
MIKE: A lot of the time, people will be fine paying crazy prices at a place like Flight Club because it’s a store. But they’ll complain paying us even if our prices are $200 lower than Flight Club. They assume because we’re not a store that we can give them some extra hookup. But this is a business.
STEVE: People hate on success, and they assume I’m an asshole because I’m all about my business. I don’t have time for hookups or discounts, and people get angry at that. But if they were the ones making the money, they’d be fine with it.
What’s the one thing you want people to take away from this about resellers when they read this?
MIKE: That they are paying for a convenience. All this work, all this time and hours spent out in the cold - that adds up. We’re out here doing that. If you’re buying from us, that means you didn’t have to. Don’t forget that when you’re paying a little extra for your pair.
JAKE: People swear we just get these shoes for free or for a discount and were making tons of profit. It’s not like that. We’re working hard to bring our customers the shoes they are looking for. People need to respect that.
BILL: Exactly. People think we just walk in a store and there’s 100 pairs sitting there waiting for us to sell. It’s not that easy. We’re talking years of work and contacts we’ve built.