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The sneakerheads on top of the resale game

Just like buying stocks and shares, selling on rare and in-demand trainers can be a lucrative business for those with a keen eye for what's making the running

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Front runner: Lauren Ryan Fitzgerald with some of her rare trainers. Photo: Don Maloney

Front runner: Lauren Ryan Fitzgerald with some of her rare trainers. Photo: Don Maloney

Don Moloney

Front runner: Lauren Ryan Fitzgerald with some of her rare trainers. Photo: Don Maloney

Maybe you've seen them, standing outside Brown Thomas in a queue that snakes around the street as you scurry on your way to work. Or perhaps you've passed the large crowds outside JD Sports in the evening, camping chairs and blankets piled up on the path. They know it's going to be a long night.

They are the 'sneakerheads' or 'hypebeasts', waiting for the drop of much-hyped, limited edition trainers. And among their number, you'll find a cottage industry of entrepreneurs making up to €1,000 reselling those trainers online.

The global trainer resale market is huge - currently valued at $6bn (€5.4bn), according to data from online marketplace StockX. Ireland still has a ways to go before catching up, though in the last five years, dedicated Facebook groups have sprung up (the Sneakerhead Ireland Marketplace group now has more than 5,700 members) and a consignment store, Saint Street Sneakers, opened in Temple Bar.

"To be honest, the reseller industry barely exists in Ireland, largely because of lack of access to the products locally," says Phil Boyle, a self-described sneakerhead from Dublin. "Nearly everything that ends up being resold via Facebook or in shops like Saint Street comes here via online sales and raffle wins. Very rarely, Brown Thomas or Footlocker get access to valuable in-demand product, so the volume just isn't here to support a proper reseller culture."

When Irish stores do get hyped trainers such as Yeezys, Kanye West's collaboration with Adidas, there can be problems if demand outweighs supply. In June, Brown Thomas had to cancel the launch of the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 "for health and safety concerns" after hundreds queued overnight.

Instead, enterprising sneakerheads rely on an online lottery system to source product. Noah Boyle (17), from Dublin, bought his first pair for resale after learning about the industry through YouTube videos of American resellers.

"I was just shocked, to be honest, by the fact that people would pay a lot more for shoes that were hard to get," he recalls. "The first time, I entered a raffle for a pair of Jordan Shattered Backboards 3.0, just for the sake of it, on a German website, BSTN, and I also entered on Brown Thomas's Instagram. It happened that I won the two raffles in the same week."

He checked the resale prices on StockX and decided to sell through the site, making a profit of €100 on each pair, after PayPal and shipping fees.

"Since then, for every pair of shoes that looks like it's going to make a good bit of money, I probably enter about 10 raffles on my phone, then I'd do it on my girlfriend's phone, on my mam's phone, on my sister's phone, for any chance to get them.

"When there's really good ones [coming out], I'd say I'd spend between six and 10 hours a week entering raffles, watching videos, looking at Instagram. But then on average, during the week I'd spend maybe an hour a day looking at YouTube or Facebook or [shopping app] Depop."

While Noah still wears "regular runners that aren't hard to get", he's become keenly aware of what's hyped. At the moment, the most sought-after trainers are from Nike's collaboration with Off-White, Virgil Abloh's luxury streetwear label. December saw the release of the Off-White x Nike Dunk Low, which Noah managed to snap up on the first day of his Christmas holidays.

"The whole day was filled with excitement," he says. "You feel like you're on cloud nine when you win them, and when you sell them, it's such a satisfying feeling that you've made money from not really doing hands-on work."

However, Noah's not ready to part with this pair just yet. He bought them for €150, but he's hoping demand will push up the resale price.

"It's hard at the moment. I said I'd hold them for a while, a year max, but last week they went up to €670 and now they're at €580, so there is a risk, and you just have to hope they'd go up. Sometimes they can skyrocket - there are some Off-White Jordans that have gone up to €3,000."

It's a lesson Lauren Ryan Fitzgerald learned the hard way, after "panic selling" a pair of Air Jordan 1 Highs, a collaboration with the rapper Travis Scott, that she bought in a raffle last year.

"That was one shoe I knew was going to resell for so much. I posted them on Klekt, a reselling site similar to StockX but just for Europeans, for €1,150, two weeks after they came out. They sold two days later, and that was my biggest sale - I was left with €900 when they took taxes out," she explains. The original retail price was around €160.

"People would look at me now and say: 'That was a very bad sale'. I sold it too quickly, I could have held on to it and it would have risen in price. I think now they're selling for nearly €2,000. I know now in future to hold onto the shoe and not just panic sell, as it's called."

Lauren (22), an accommodation supervisor at a hotel in Limerick, was also introduced to the resale industry through YouTube videos. Once she got a job aged 17 and started making her own money, she could finally buy the hyped shoes for herself.

"Usually, I enter the raffle in my size, and once they get to my house, if I like them I keep them, and if I dislike them I can just resell them. The last few times, I've kept them. That's the worst thing about me, when I see the shoe, I fall in love with it and I keep it!"

Lauren says of her family and friends' response to her hobby: "They definitely find it weird. When my parents get a delivery to the door, they're like, 'Lauren, not another pair of shoes!'"

She adds: "I've sold eight or nine pairs, but it's mostly been Yeezys and I haven't seen as much of a profit, though I kind of expected that, they're not as hyped as they were. The full black colourway that came out a few months ago, I sold that for nearly €400, that was a good one. I sold a few other pairs of Yeezys too, but it's mainly been €80-100 profit."

There are risks that come with the territory, such as the unpredictability of the market and resale prices not meeting expectations.

"I have nearly €2,000 worth of shoes at home that haven't sold yet, so there is that worry that they won't sell, but a lot of times they do," says Lauren. "That's what's crazy about it, it's kind of like investment stock. You can buy a shoe and in a year, it might stay the same price, but a year later, it just rises. You can never tell."

Ultimately, Lauren feels the risks are worth the possible rewards. "I know it sounds awful, but I love making money. When you get a notification that a shoe is sold, especially one you were worried might not sell for that much, it just makes me so happy. It's like gambling, so it kind of paid off."

Not everyone is so enthusiastic. Certain brands have taken steps to combat reselling - some shops require buyers to wear shoes out of store, cutting the resale potential, while online shoppers at Nike must authenticate their account via text message, to reduce interference from bots - yet brands can also benefit from the buzz generated by the resale market. Sneakerheads get frustrated over having to pay large markups for sold-out trainers, but the resellers argue they are an inevitable side-effect of such heightened demand.

"I do see where they're coming from - if there's a shoe you really want, it's a lot of money to be paying. A few weeks back there was a shoe I really wanted and I entered every raffle, but I ended up buying it for €500," says Lauren. "I see why people get angry at resellers, but it's never gonna stop. It's a big industry and I'm sure if they had the chance to sell a shoe for a lot of profit, they would."

Irish Independent