The sneakerhead conversation about the inability to buy coveted Nike kicks at retail — specifically the SNKRS app — is far from new. However, the resale saga that unfolded this week involving Ann Hebert, a former Nike executive, and her son, Joe, fueled cynicism among collectors who are questioning if they have a fair shot at buying pairs on release date.
Hebert, who was employed by the company for 25 years, resigned from her role on Monday following a Bloomberg Businessweek report that shined a light on West Coast Streetwear, her son’s profitable resale business.
The story, was written by Joshua Hunt, found a connection between Ann and Joe when the Nike executive’s son allegedly called him from a phone registered to his mother. In addition, Hunt’s report stated Joe sent him a statement for an American Express corporate card to show West Coast Streetwear’s revenues, which was listed in his mother’s name.
Below, YouTuber Jacques Slade, famed collector Damaries Negron and host and sneaker enthusiast Tamara Dhia discuss how the incident has impacted consumer confidence and how Nike should respond.
How has the resale saga impacted your confidence in buying Nike’s biggest releases?
Tamara Dhia: “I haven’t been able to buy the sneakers that I’ve wanted for two years now because like everyone else, I’m on SNKRS app trying and then throwing my phone against the wall because I keep taking Ls. Does this necessarily change how I’m going to get sneakers? No, because I can’t get them anyway. At the very least, there’s a bigger conversation that’s being had, especially in the Clubhouse rooms that we were in yesterday hearing people’s frustrations — and even some people talking about perhaps boycotting Nike. I don’t necessarily know if that is going to happen, but that’s the sentiment right now.”
Damaries Negron: “Seeing all the images of [Joe Hebert] with multiple pairs of Off-White [Jordan] 5’s broke my heart because I know a lot of people who wanted to wear them. Now, the first thing I’m going to think when I see a limited sneaker is, ‘I bet you a Nike rep will have first dibs and can do anything with the pairs.'” [On Nike’s corporate site, it outlines its conflict of interest policy, and the company states: “Potential conflicts can often be resolved with an open and honest discussion. Remember: having a conflict of interest is not necessarily a violation of our Code, but failing to disclose it is.”]
Will you continue to buy from Nike platforms?
Jacques Slade: “I spend my money across all brands, and I will continue to spend my money with Nike, but this is the opportunity for a conversation to be had with the brand. I think that is where the change needs to happen. A lot of people are [saying], ‘Hey, if you like Nike shoes, you have to stop buying Nike shoes,’ and that is one perspective. But my thought is this is something that Nike needs to change for the betterment of the community and the culture — whether [the consumer] is a sneakerhead or the mom that buys a pair of shoes for her son to play soccer.”
DN: “I will always buy from Nike. But I will always have one eyebrow raised on release dates.”
TD: “If I’ve learned anything through my sneaker love, it’s that I’m a bit of a sadomasochist — and that apparently I enjoy the pain of losing because that’s all I freaking do when it comes to stupid SNKRS app. I still try, but I don’t know why I do. I legitimately don’t know why I have not hit the SNKRS app in years, but for some reason I still have that little glimmer of hope. The sneakers that I have got over the last couple of years, even if they are Nike, have not been through Nike. They’ve been through a different company, a different outlet, a different connection.”
What can Nike do to restore your confidence in buying limited sneakers in the future?
JS: “There needs to be transparency. Right now, everything is so hidden behind this SNKRS app world and it’s so gamified, and that’s where the problem lies — because it’s so hidden, stuff is getting back-doored that no one knows about. Transparency is going to be the point where people begin to trust again.”
DN: “I will try for the limited sneaker, but if I can’t win on the SNKRS app then I know that it’s rigged. I’ve caught so many losses on SNKRS app, it’s ridiculous. At this point, if I don’t hit on the app, I’ll just pay resell. The only way Nike will restore my confidence is if they put me in a room with some of their reps and give me a moment of their day to let me explain this whole thing and how it can be solved.”
TD: “I don’t know that this has shaken my confidence, if I’m keeping it real, because I haven’t been able to get these sneakers anyway. The sneaker resale market has shifted the culture significantly in a direction that has pulled my personal love out of it because it sucks seeing a pair of sneakers that you really want to buy and the only way you can get them is to pay three times retail. It pulls the joy of it out of you. There’s never going to be enough sneakers for every single person that wants them, especially if it’s a hyped release. But optics wise, having a person in such a high position of power and having a child who has a very successful retail business is not a good look.”
What does this resale saga say about the state of the secondary market?
JS: “It gives it an example of the archetype of the reseller, and really brings to light who is doing the reselling versus who’s doing the buying. It’s typically not people that are in, or from, the community. It’s entrepreneurs that are taking advantage, who see an opportunity to make money, not people that see an opportunity to expand the culture. There’s always been resellers in the sneaker community, but generally those people were part of the community. The resellers that we see today aren’t necessarily a part of the culture; they are simply taking part to sell as opposed to being a part and selling.”
DN: “Because of this situation, a lot of things can happen with the resell market. There’s a chance that [Nike] might change the distribution format, which can affect resellers. As of now, shipping delays are causing issues with resellers and it’s messing up the resell market for them. There’s a chance that Nike can change the whole release system.”
TD: “I’m not going to knock someone trying to make money. I respect everyone’s hustle, especially in these trying times. But I don’t like what it’s done to the sneaker culture as a whole.”
What do you think happens next?
JS: “My hope is that there is more transparency, and Nike is more forthcoming with this process, with what happened, with what they actually think and how they feel about it. We all know resellers are there and that resellers have almost taken over the conversation of sneakers, but the brand is silent on it. They’re not talking about the bots, about how these people are getting all of these shoes, about how their systems are being exploited or what they’re doing to combat any of that.”
DN: “Brands and stores have yet to figure out ways to block resellers. It’s not going to go away. Nike needs to start realizing that reselling is never leaving, accept that reselling exists and that they can’t block or prevent it. [They need to allow the resellers] to get pairs that won’t affect the [amount of pairs available for] actual collectors. If Nike can figure out a way to take on reselling, then everyone can walk away happy. Until then, situations like this will pop up.”
TD: “What I hope happens next is that Nike releases a statement. What I think happens next is that business goes on as usual and the resale market continues to be a burgeoning economy. I don’t necessarily know that anything is really going to shift after this scandal — but I wish it would.”