How Sneaker Resale Is Transforming Holiday Gifting

Five years ago, buying a holiday gift for a sneakerhead might have entailed a trip to the Nike store or, for the very dedicated, setting an EBay alert for a sold-out style.

Today, though, gift-givers have a wide array of options beyond what’s currently on store shelves, and consumers are increasingly comfortable looking to the resale market for their holiday shopping. As a result, marketplaces like StockX and Stadium Goods have seen surge in traffic and orders in recent weeks as customers track down limited-edition styles for the hypebeasts in their lives. StockX — which which bills itself as “the stock market of things” and which earlier this year was valued at over $1 billion — saw a 70% increase in orders between November 29 and December 16 over the same period last year.

“Millennials and Gen Z consumers are driving the market,” said a spokesperson for the company, adding that Jordan Brand and Yeezy continue to be its most popular brands. “Their interests are shifting to more sustainable methods of consumption, so naturally, resale platforms are becoming increasingly popular during the holidays.”

Most of today’s top resale marketplaces also authenticate their items before listing them online and offer a user experience much like that of a typical e-commerce site, making the process fairly straightforward even for a parent or sibling who’s never shopped secondhand online.

“Mass-market consumers are becoming more comfortable with the after market for truly exceptional products,” Jed Stiller, Stadium Goods co-founder and co-CEO, told FN. “Trust is a key factor. The customer has to know that the market they’re buying from values authenticity and is able to ensure the products they sell are genuine and never worn.”

Unlike many of their peers, StockX and Stadium Goods sell only new, unworn items, but even lightly-used products are no longer off-limits for gifting. According to Deloitte, one in four (27%) shoppers plan to give secondhand items this holiday season. That share is even higher among millennial and Gen Z consumers, with 43% and 61% planning to gift resale.

“In years past, there’s been a stigma around gifting secondhand,” said Erin Wallace, vice president of integrated marketing at the resale marketplace ThredUp. “It’s exciting that the tides are turning and we’re seeing those perceptions shift. As consumers demand more sustainable options and are increasingly bored by the experience of retail, secondhand is quickly surfacing as a responsible and unique gift option.”

ThredUp is growing in popularity as a sneaker destination, with sales in the category up 36% year-over-year during the holiday season. In the past month, Adidas (including Yeezy and Stella McCartney), Allbirds, Hoka One One and Vans were among the platform’s top-selling brands.

According to a study the company conducted last year with retail analytics firm GlobalData, the secondhand apparel market — worth $24 billion in 2018 — is expected to reach $51 billion by 2023, growing three times faster than traditional retail.

Of course, there are still holdouts, particularly when shopping for others: Of the consumers surveyed by Deloitte, those who said they wouldn’t buy resale gifts cited “the appearance of being cheap” and “concerns about the item’s condition” as their top concerns. Neither of these, though, quite applies to the sneaker market, where pristine resale styles sold at a premium are the norm.

On the luxury resale marketplace The RealReal, searches for sneakers increased 27% last holiday season, and the share of gift-boxed orders tripled.

“As sneakers continue their proliferation into the mainstream, they’ve begun to draw comparisons to ‘It’ bags for men,” said Amir Azarcon, The RealReal’s streetwear expert. “Most of the pairs available on the secondary market are limited-edition collaborations which make them highly coveted, and often fetch resell prices 3-4 times their retail value. You really can’t go wrong gifting sneakers with a strong resale value.”

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