A fan of Kanye West and his coveted sneakers recently snapped up a pair of the rapper’s light brown Adidas Yeezy Boost 750s on eBay for roughly the same price of an economy car or an average down payment on a home.
Paying $10,099 for a pair of shoes is certainly atypical —particularly since the kicks originally retailed for $350 in 2015. But this certainly isn’t your typical sneaker story.
West and his legion of stars who wear Yeezys — from his wife and two children to Justin Bieber and Jay Z — have created an unprecedented frenzy for his shoes, and the scarcity of supply is forcing sneakerheads to shop the $1.2 billion resale market like never before. It’s an industry that has long been dominated by Jordan Brand and Nike, but that is quickly changing, thanks to West’s incredible clout, according to key influencers.
“The sneakers Kanye made [are] groundbreaking,” celebrated musician and sneakerhead DJ Khaled told Footwear News, citing the designs. “When they come out, you can’t get them [anymore] because they’re sold out. They’re like art.”
“Ordinarily when a shoe is selling for thousands of dollars on the secondary market, it’s because it’s very rare, and in the past year, there were 100 or 200 sold,” he said. “For the Yeezys, there’s literally thousands of pairs being sold on the secondary market, and they’re still selling for thousands of dollars.”
The box price of the Yeezy Boost 350, FN’s 2015 Shoe of the Year, is $200, and the 750 sells for $350 — but the asking price after stores sell out triples and quadruples.
Throughout the first quarter of 2016, according to StockX, unworn pairs of the Pirate Black iteration of the 350 had an average resale price of $946, and unworn Triple Black 750s averaged at $1,484. The highest selling price for an unworn 350 in the Turtledove colorway was $7,700 — and the $10,099 sale of the light brown 750 outranked all others.
The Kanye Effect
Renowned sneakerhead Dallas Penn believes the Yeezy shoes are selling — and reselling — extremely well because of their universal appeal.
“We’ve been inside the basketball shoe trend for longer than any other sport genre, so now I think the consumer wants a different silhouette, a different profile on foot,” the Internet celebrity said. “Yeezy is [worn by everyone] from classic sneakerheads to yoga-pants moms.”
Penn said that Kim Kardashian West, who’s often spotted in her husband’s designs, has undoubtedly helped bolster the appeal for women. Her 2-year-old daughter, North, regularly dons the sneakers, while 4-month-old Saint West made his debut in Yeezys on his mother’s Snapchat on Easter Sunday.
There’s no doubt that the endless buzz is helping fuel prices of Yeezy on the resale market, but the rapper’s affiliation with Adidas has also helped garner popularity for some of the brand’s other storied sneakers.
“He’s made Adidas more relevant in the secondary market than it used to be,” Luber said.
The brand’s ever-popular Ultra Boost running shoe — worn by West during the 2015 Billboard Music Awards show — is one standout. Sneakerheads also are picking up selections from its acclaimed NMD and Tubular franchises.
“With the advent of the Yeezys, we’ve seen some interest in Adidas silhouettes more so than you have in the past,” said John McPheters, co-owner of New York-based consignment sneaker store Stadium Goods. “It broadens the field from a resale standpoint so it’s not dominated by just Jordan and Nike; there’s more breadth to it.”
The Bigger Picture
Make no mistake, though: The Swoosh still rules the market overall — at least for now.
According to Luber, the Adidas Yeezy franchise accounts for 15 percent of the resale market’s sales dollars, with Jordan Brand and Nike accounting for 80 percent, and all other brands accounting for 5 percent.
Still, Jordan Brand and Nike are undoubtedly feeling the Kanye effect. Before the first Adidas Yeezy launch hit stores in February 2015, the two Beaverton, Ore.-based labels
accounted for 96 percent of the market.
“Jordans quieted down a little bit coming into this year, but it has had a couple strong releases that helped pick up momentum,” McPheters said. “[But] Yeezys have definitely changed the game. It’s a phenomenon that people are willing to pay so much over sticker for, and resale prices have eclipsed Jordans.”
Some retailers were more perplexed about the Yeezy’s ability to sell with high frequency and consistent exorbitant prices on the secondary market. “With not much variant from one release to the other, I would have thought there’d be a slowdown, but the product is just so good, comfortable and wearable,” said Jason Faustino, owner of N.Y.-based retailer Extra Butter.
Looking ahead, one factor that could impact the popularity of Yeezys on the resale market is an increase in the number of pairs produced by Adidas. The rapper has publicly stated that he wants to ramp up production. During a series of tweets West himself branded “stream of consciousness,” he proclaimed Adidas would produce 1 million pairs this year.
Matt Powell, sports industry analyst with The NPD Group, believes Adidas should be careful before flooding the market, recalling Reebok’s missteps with its Jay Z signature shoe, the S. Carter, which launched in 2003.
“[Adidas] has to be very careful. We have a recent example of how a brand fails to exploit an asset, overproduce shoes and kill the business,” he said. “It’s critical that they remain extremely conservative in terms of how many pairs they put into the market. What makes this whole thing work is that supply is always below demand, and if we start to see demand meet supply, the system is going to crash.”
The Yeezy distribution plan, according to Arthur Hoeld, GM of Adidas Originals, is fluid.
“We view this as a long-term project with Kanye and for various opportunities within the collection we adjust our strategy,” he said. “There is a plan, but we also are adjusting that plan constantly because that’s the nature of the partnership.”
Even if more pairs were introduced to retail, some believe the resale value would continue to climb. “I think the demand is still high enough that even with more pairs it isn’t going to hurt the resale value,” Penn said.
“Once they get to retro-ing the pairs that have been released, then we can say they might be plateauing. But otherwise, I still think they’re going up. They still have colors to introduce, and the original colors that have been released, if they’re in deadstock condition, keep going up in value.”
Interestingly, the fascination with all things West has also helped drive renewed interest in his former collaboration shoes with Nike, a company the musician has bashed in his song lyrics, on Twitter and, most recently, at his show during New York Fashion Week in February. But a few months earlier, during his remarks at the FNAAs, West did acknowledge his former shoe collaborator helped put Yeezy on the map.
“And the company that I won’t mention, that I’ve been very angry with in the past, they were very helpful too to launch the name Yeezy as a shoe,” he said during a passionate 20-minute speech.
Consider this: In 2015, according to StockX, the “Red October” iteration of the Nike Air Yeezy II sold for as much as $15,000 — higher than any of West’s Adidas shoes have gone for.