I was in 8th grade when I learned about the secret world of limited edition sneakers. When it came to footwear, my parents never strayed far from the sale rack. Their skepticism around buying a $100 pair of shoes turned to shock when I asked for a $300 pair. They were rightfully confused, considering the shoe retailed for $140. Why were we paying so much more?
The short answer is economics. Since demand was greater than supply, a lucrative after-market developed. This secondary market has attracted 100s of millions in venture investment since. But back then, I was just your average 8th grader, interested the Air Jordan 11 ‘Black/Red’ (one of the most iconic Air Jordans of all time).
I wasn’t able to purchase the shoes at retail so my only option was this after-market. After some begging, my parents and I agreed that this shoe would be my Christmas present for the year.
Something about that transaction intrigued me. It got me thinking, “Why can’t I do that?”. That thought never left me. I bought my first pair in June 2013. At the time I had roughly $700 in my bank account. The Nike Air Foamposite ‘Blue/Grey’, they were kinda ugly and came with a price tag of $200… My mom thought I was crazy.
I sold them for a few dollars in profit and made my second purchase a week later. This was an entirely new shoe, with a little more demand than my first pair. My margin on this pair: $40. My mom was still skeptical and we came up with a rule. One pair of shoes at a time. Two weeks later I broke that promise and purchased two pairs of the Kobe 8 ‘Red Boa’. Hiding the boxes, I began trying my hardest to sell them before my mom found out…
Pair after pair, bought and sold. Eventually two pairs of the same shoe wasn’t an anomaly, it was expected. I began shipping all over the United States and eventually, all over the world. That one pair limit? I shattered it buying more than 30 pairs of the Air Jordan 6 ‘Black/Infrared’.
A common question I get telling this story: Is that legal? Yes…! There are pros and cons of the shoe aftermarket, but my operations were perfectly legal. One caveat: the practice of reselling is highly discouraged by manufacturers like Nike. To combat “resellers”, Nike implemented a one pair per-person limit. How was I able to get 30 pairs of the same shoe?
I bought most of my pairs online. Different accounts allowed me to skirt the one pair limit. On August 9th, 2014 Nike surprise released a shoe that was selling for $300 a pop on eBay. I bought and bought, 12 pairs in total. If everything sold at the current prices, I could expect more than $1000 in profit. Not bad…
Then I got an email… and another. My heart dropped. Cancellation after cancellation. My paper gains were gone but I was no worse off than I had started. Until I got the phone call. My address and debit card were blocked from ordering from Nike.com.
That moment was the beginning of the end. I went on to sell more shoes, including the highly coveted Yeezys. But gradually the business faded and I stopped buying new pairs. I sold old inventory and reprioritized my time. Now all that’s left is an old Instagram account and people around the world wearing shoes they purchased from a high schooler :)