Last year, the Financial Times reported that the sneaker resale industry was valued at around $1 billion. That’s a drop in the bucket of the $55 billion global sneaker industry, of which about $28 billion is in the U.S., according to NPD analyst Matt Powell. But the numbers reflect the basic economic principle of supply and demand. Limited-edition releases have become commodities themselves, and can fetch an insane amount on the aftermarket—as much as $15,000 for a pair of Undefeated Jordan IVs. Josh Luber of Campless points out in the same FT article that in 2013, $62.7 million was spent copping Jordans off eBay alone.
And eBay’s facing some stiff competition from alternative platforms ranging from social media like Instagram to specialized peer-to-peer e-commerce sites like Grailed. But the business of buying and selling online can feel like a full-time job, especially for sneakerheads who have 9-to-5s and may not have the time to travel to the post office and wait to ship out a pair, or the weary sellers who are rightfully anxious about forking over a ton of cash for kicks that could turn out to be totally bogus.
Those are just some of the reasons why the sneaker resale retail concept store flourishes, and for the longest time, one shop has unequivocally owned that space—Flight Club. Now, former club owner and hospitality expert Jed Stiller has teamed up with John McPheters, e-commerce veteran and the man behind Flight Club's website, on a novel concept that combines sneaker resale with a top-notch customer-oriented experience: Stadium Goods.
“We’re at everyone’s service, whether you’re buying our products on the consumer side, or you’re dropping them off on the consignment side,” says McPheters. The 3,000 square foot space includes a retail store at 47 Howard Street and a consignment area, the Stadium Goods Market Center, with a dedicated entrance at 305 Canal Street. The interior was designed by Jorge Porta, and everything within is a proprietary design, ranging from the lighting, shelves, and the conveyor belt in Market Center that takes consignment kicks to the hands of employees who’ll add them to the store’s ever-growing stock.
Stiller wants to infuse a retail hospitality vibe into the sneaker store. His experience owning and managing several properties through the last several years will serve him well as he tries to reconcile high-class service with world-class footwear. While McPheters will focus a lot of his energy on the e-commerce site, the physical retail experience rests primarily on Stiller’s shoulders.
“This business is very ‘cool guy’ and you kind of get lost in the shuffle,” says Stiller. “We want to be the opposite of that.”
One of the reasons Stiller says he left the nightclub industry was because he was tired of the exclusivity aspect, pushing bottles on patrons or requiring the services of a doorman. Stadium Goods will be a more inclusive experience, signaling that it isn’t your typical sub rosa sneaker shop, where customers can come in feeling like the employees actually want them to spend their money there.
Stiller’s brought in key management members from J. Crew to help foster a welcoming retail attitude at the shop, and is inspired more by the tech world’s approach to retail than his predecessors in the sneaker lane.
“We take cues from Apple and the way they treat customers,” he says. Indeed, the Market Center is designed after Apple’s Genius Bar, combining clean aesthetics with an efficient user interface and a friendly approach to consignment, hoping to provide a seamless experience. It’s something McPheters refers to as “catering the right way to both sides of supply and demand.”
Stadium Goods will also include a VIP program for customers looking to purchase big ticket items like Undefeated Jordan IVs, Nike Air Mags, or Red October Yeezys, all of which are stored behind Stadium Goods’ impressive trophy case. Stiller also boasts of Stadium Goods’ “one and done” portal that will allow potential consignees to send their kicks to the shop and track their inventory.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to sell their products,” says Stiller. It’s this ease of use and convenience, combined with excellent customer service and the founders’ wealth of experience in sneaker culture, that really sets Stadium Goods apart from the competition, as well as peer-to-peer platforms like eBay, Grailed, and Kixify.
Like other resale retail shops, Stadium Goods does take a cut of sales—20%, but consignees will be able to pick up checks any day of the week. McPheters is hoping to explore alternate methods of payment in the future.
The founding fathers of Stadium Goods are rounded out by Yu-Ming Wu, the man behind SneakerNews.com and SneakerCon, who serves as the Chief Marketing Officer. Initially, Wu had no intentions of breaking into the retail store business, but when he saw the passion and experience that McPheters and Stiller had, he pitched himself and his expertise in the media and digital worlds as the ideal person to help tell Stadium Goods’ story in the right way.
McPheters notes that his and Wu’s credibility in the sneaker realm gives them a certain advantage over Silicon Valley venture capitalists with big pockets merely looking to tap into the market. When it comes to sneakers, there’s a learning curve and a culture gap that needs to be bridged, something Stadium Goods has already taken care of.
“The evidence of who we are is on the wall,” says McPheters. “You can’t gather this product unless you know what you’re doing, where to get it from, and the different players in the space.”
Plenty of Stadium Goods’ initial stock comes from existing connections the guys have in the sneaker community, and the inventory will only get bigger as the Stadium Goods Market Center opens its doors to the general public looking to consign kicks. The shop will also offer aftermarket Supreme items, obtained through the founders' connections. McPheters currently has no plans to move into the apparel consignment space, since verifying clothing's authenticity is a much different ballgame than simply having trustworthy suppliers of deadstock gear.
“It’s no longer niche,” says McPheters of sneaker culture. “For a time it was this tiny set of cool guys who were really into it, now it’s the entire world. I think as it’s grown and as things like SneakerCon have demonstrated the size of the market, now more than ever the right retailer needs to step up and provide something to customers that they don’t have.”
McPheters and Wu think the Stadium Goods website will be a true game-changer. The site is built by Gin Lane media, a company known for beautiful and minimal sites that combine usability, aesthetics, and an execution that stays true to a brand’s vision—previous clients are as varied as grooming company Harry’s to fast-casual salad restaurant Sweetgreen.
“That’s where we’re going to be super-competitive,” says Wu of Stadium Goods’ site. He’s also bringing his experience from advertising agency R/GA, where he overhauled Nike Basketball’s digital. “I believe it’s going to be the best sneaker retailer out there—on the level of Nike Store.”
A lot of effort has been put into building the user interface, and all the photography will be done in house, according to McPheters. He doesn’t think anyone in the game is really nailing product photography, and thinks that high-quality photos of each shoe combined with an easy-to-use site will be a winning combo. And of course, the product selection will be absolutely bonkers.
“It’ll set a new a bar,” he says of the website. “We’ll be going up against anyone that sells sneakers online—whether it’s Nike or adidas—our aesthetics will be best in show.”
As far as whether or not the sneaker resale bubble will burst anytime soon, McPheters doesn’t think that’s the case. While he acknowledges that with any industry, it’ll be subject to ebbs and flows and momentary lulls in action, but he believes that it’s here to stay. Demand for aftermarket Jordans and Kanye West-cosigned adidas sneakers shows no signs of fading. But Wu also points out that younger consumers are ready to embrace more and more sneaker brands.
“I think the biggest thing we’ve learned over the past three years is how much young kids want something else now,” says Wu, who cites the success of Li-Ning’s pop-up shop at SneakerCon and J. Crew’s foray into the sneaker market with limited-edition New Balance and Asics collaborations as signs that kids have no qualms with copping brands outside of the Nike and adidas dichotomy.
“The little guys are very important players in this whole market. There’s a lot of room for everybody to win,” says McPheters, who also talks about Ronnie Fieg’s success in working with brands like Puma and Asics as a boon to adding more diversity to the sneaker game.
“People are always going to wear sneakers, that’s never going to change,” says McPheters. “We’ve been in this world for a long time—I used to work for Nike, I’ve done a bunch of stuff in the consignment space—this is where we need to be; it’s our home.”
The Stadium Goods Market Center is located at 305 Canal Street and is open 7 days a week, from 12:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. The Stadium Goods Retail Store will open on Friday, October 16 and will be open 7 days a week, from 12:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. StadiumGoods.com is set to launch on October 12.