As far back as I could remember, I was a big fan of sneakers. Growing up in New York City definitely contributed to my early love for “kicks”. The city has a reputation of sorts as innovators in the “sneaker game” as well as fashion for that matter. From shell top Adidas on RUN DMC and LL Cool J, to the best ballers at Ruckers and Dyckman park rocking the latest J’s over the years, “sneaker influencers” have existed way before social media replaced physical influencers for internet influencers.
Coping kicks was also a lot simpler in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Really it boiled down to a couple of options: You were going to your sneaker stores, copping from Eastbay magazine, or had a “plug”. Those days things were pretty simple.
Forward to 2020. Industries all around the world have undergone massive change to their operational, market approach and overall business strategy to get goods and services into the hands of customers. Think Blockbuster vs Netflix, Britannica Encyclopedia vs Google, and it’s no different with the sneaker and streetwear, or HYPE goods industries. Below I’ll break down a few of the most relevant and significant changes to the industry over the last 25 years.
Let’s first kick off with Bots - automated software tools built to automatically purchase items at un-human like speeds, but specifically developed to behave like humans during the checkout process to secure high end sneakers, shoes and goods. Take it from experience, the most sophisticated sneaker bots in the market can pretty much secure any sneakers, any drop, any time. There’s also a highly competitive environment to even purchase these bots to begin with, and there can be both high retail and secondary market costs for the bots. You may also need to purchase additional items like proxies and email address generators if you are looking to buy multiple items and don’t want to get banned from these sites. This is just the beginning, with the multitude of choices, these questions ONLY arise after you’ve finally decided which bot to actually try and go after. That alone can be pretty daunting without the proper guidance. You can see one of the largest secondary marketplaces for bots below.
“Cook” groups - This is a welcomed change for the industry in my opinion. “Cook” groups are intimate communities of sneaker and HYPE goods enthusiasts, and in some cases resellers that enables the dissemination of information and knowledge around the latest products. This information can include very helpful and tactical tips about purchasing the products you are after in the easiest way. This transpires into model release information, pricing information for products, direct links to purchase products combined with auto-checkout capabilities, and access to tools that can make product purchasing faster and easier for their members, just to name a few of the benefits of what is included with membership. These are just a few of the reasons why I personally joined a “Cook” group myself. At the core, cook groups are the response for the three topics I have discussed above. Without membership into one of these groups, it can become increasingly difficult to be able to purchase any items before the stock disappears in seconds due to the large number of users after the product and the various bots available in the market.
All of these changes have certainly had an impact on how true sneaker collectors or enthusiasts secure the products they want. In some cases, they just can’t unfortunately, unless they are willing to go and spend hundreds (thousands in some cases) above retail cost for a sneaker or product they really want. The brands themselves understand this is an issue, and there are many documented examples of brands spending millions of dollars on anti-botting software to try and get their products into the hands of customers at retail cost in the most fair and efficient way. However, more needs to be done. It’s time for the brands themselves to start being innovative about ways to accomplish this. Some retailers are starting to try and do this by creating rewards programs and such, but it is still not enough and the big brands themselves need to come up with more creative ways of accomplishing this instead of consumers forced to pay a 2x-3x markup on the secondary markets. I think big opportunities exist for this in the future, and one example could be the brands working directly with their consumers and engaging them in a way like never before by creating “sneaker clubs”. Eligibility would factor in regions, spend by consumer (brand loyalty) and participation metrics. Each member would receive a set number of “Exclusive cops” per year that are guaranteed. As an example, If I belong to one of these brand “sneaker clubs” then I am guaranteed to purchase three “limited releases” per year, no matter which they are, the member just needs to formally execute one of their “exclusive cops” for the year. This strategy may not be the right one, and certainly would need to be fleshed out more, but it’s the kind of ideas I would personally love to see from the brands themselves to get these products into the hands of customers like myself, that #RockDontStock.