Meet Canada’s Celebrity Sneaker Dealers

Kerry Ross/The Globe and Mail

In 2016, Idrees Kickz resold his first pair of Yeezy 350 V1s and resold them for $900. Teenagers everywhere, including his high school in Richmond Hill, Ontario, were clamoring for a pair of futuristic sneakers, which at the time retailed for $225.

They were the first pair of Adidas’ collaboration with rapper and style icon Kanye West (now known as Ye), and they weren’t available to anyone. To make things even crazier, the shoe was released as a “drop,” or limited-edition offering; if you missed it, you lost the style—and any chance of paying the retail price.

As rare shoes became the hottest show-off item in school cafeterias, a secondary market emerged, largely fueled by sneaker-savvy teens who found their way Buy them at retail and want to make money. “A lot of people were like, ‘Oh, yo, this is disgusting, where did you get that?’ I thought, I can show you,” Kickz recalled.

Edris Hashimi, also known as Idrees Kickz.lecture notes

Within three years, Kickz (whose real name is Edris Hashimi) had reached $1 million in sales. So how did a teenager from suburban Ontario turn sneaker sales into a million-dollar business? First, he worked hard to build Instagram, which has 1 million users. Then there’s Woiair, an online business he launched in 2016, where he works with a small team to ship coveted rare footwear and curated streetwear to eager buyers, mainly in Canada and the US, but also as far afield as Asia.

“I remember my mom telling me that every kid plays with toys, but I play with shoes,” says Kickz, now 21. As a teenager, he became obsessed with streetwear, impressing classmates with his rare Supreme T-shirts and Jordan sneakers.

In other words, Kickz is a self-proclaimed hype freak, a fashion-obsessed kid who pours his time and money into the latest limited-edition sneakers, T-shirts and hoodies from brands like Supreme, Palace and Off-White , the brand is built on a deep connection with real scenes, from hip-hop culture to skateboard culture to surfing.

The uniform convinced Kickz that he was a legitimate source for his classmates to buy rare, authentic sneakers. He realized that to convince people to buy from him, he had to show them that he had the real goods—by wearing them. He became a walking billboard for rare sneakers and streetwear. “I don’t promote myself, how can he believe me?” He now talks about his hypothetical sales goals when he was in school.

Kickz’s disciplined eye and business acumen catapulted him to the top of the sneaker industry and streetwear business as an independent distributor ——Business is booming. The global market is expected to be worth $30 billion in sales by 2030, up from $6 billion in 2020, according to investment firm Cowen.

Selling sneakers at scale can be a lucrative business, depending on the seller’s authority, channel, and marketing skills. But it’s not without its challenges: Your word is everything, snipers are spinning, and your Jordans better be genuine. How do top Canadian sellers stand out from the competition in an increasingly crowded marketplace with soaring demand and intense competition?

Richard Chang and Shawn Alonto of Sneaker Source in Toronto.lecture notes

Engaging high school graduate audiences is an effective strategy with Richard Chang and Shawn Alonto sneaker source torontoThe friends, both in their early thirties, sell about 80 to 100 pairs of sneakers a month, ranging from a woman in her early 20s to a dad in his forties. “We all have families. We’re older,” Chang said. “We can think of a dad who comes to ask for shoes or a child who comes and asks for shoes.”

Unlike Kickz, Chang and Alonto weren’t teenage sneakerheads, or even particularly interested in fashion. “We’ve never bought expensive shoes that cost more than $200,” Chang said. “We’re just human when it comes to things like shoes.”

but after reading the last Dance, In Netflix’s 2020 Michael Jordan documentary, a wave of nostalgia compelled them to seek out a pair of the Jordan 6 DMP sneakers, the shoes his Airness wore before his first NBA title. Chang fell through, but Alonto managed to snag a pair on Foot Locker’s website for $299.45.

Alonto wishes he could wear them, or at least keep the shoes as souvenirs. But after browsing the Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji to see what the shoe was for, they both decided to get in the resale game. Alonto sold them for $380—a modest markup, but he could see he was sitting on a business opportunity. Others are selling Jordans for $150 more than retail. “We’re like men, let’s get down to business, this market is currently untapped in Canada,” Chang said.

They also understand that cultivating a loyal community and building brand trust takes time. “We talk to everyone with the same integrity,” Chang said. “The customer service is always there, and I think that keeps people coming back. Even though we don’t have the cheapest sneakers compared to other resellers, people still keep coming back to us because they love the experience.”

The driving force — or necessary evil — behind the sneaker market is robots. Computer programs automate and speed up the online checkout process, allowing resellers to snap up all stock of limited-edition sneakers before buyers can purchase them at retail stores — driving buyers crazy and keeping companies like Sneaker Source and Woiair in business .

Based in Vancouver Sole SavyHowever, it offers a way to bypass such bots: For a monthly or annual fee, shoppers can receive instant alerts when the sneakers hit shelves. As SoleSavy says on their website: “These notifications are sent faster than anyone can tweet or share, giving you a major advantage over the competition.”

The model also engenders loyalty among SoleSavy’s target consumer base of older, more affluent buyers Facilitate connections between employees and other shoppers by allowing access to messaging platforms. In this way, the customer also buys the community. “From a community standpoint, it’s pretty simple,” says CEO and co-founder Dejan Pralica. “We’re just bringing together people who love something, and we’re creating an online place with a structure and an ecosystem where they feel like they belong and are a part of something.”

For Canadian resellers, most transactions take place on Facebook Marketplace or Instagram. But Pralica finds that social media platforms can be alienating rather than community building. “It’s not about building relationships and friendships,” he said. Hold subscriber events in Vancouver and other cities, offer 30% off shoe laces or give away free sneakers to keep customers loyal.

Brayden Kerr and Nav Marwah of SneakHer.Kerry Ross/The Globe and Mail

There is another problem plaguing the market: The resale business is dominated by men. For years, Brayden Kerr, 26, has brought her boyfriend Nav Marwah, 27, to sneaker parties with other dealers in the Greater Toronto Area because being the only Female, she felt very uncomfortable. “I realized there weren’t many girls in the sneaker industry,” she said. “I have a lot of friends who love sneakers, but they just don’t know where to buy them. So, I decided that maybe it’s an untapped niche, especially in Toronto because there’s a lot of people there, but I can on the one hand Count how many girls I know who are really into sneaker resale.”

About 10 months ago, she and Marwah decided to launch sneak into her, a resale company exclusively for women. It’s taken off; SneakHer is selling an average of two to three pairs a day, and has built a thriving online community of nearly 40,000 followers across TikTok and Instagram. Kerr pinpoints her clientele as 90 percent women, “which is amazing because that’s our goal, to create a space for girls who aren’t really into sneaker resale but like Jordans,” she says. Say. SneakHer is popular with Toronto shoppers but sells all over the country, including the Yukon.

Kerry Ross/The Globe and Mail

Like their competitors, Kerr and Marwa are picky about authenticity. But their strength lies in their hyper-personalized customer experience for underserved markets; they reply to every Instagram direct message and even include a handwritten note with every sale. “It’s knowledge, it’s an end-to-end experience,” Marwah said. “We always try to be customer-centric.” The pair have noticed their fans have genuinely connected online through the SneakHer TikTok page.

Word of mouth goes a long way. Marwah and Kerr observed women showing off their new sneakers to their friends—“and then their entire friend group was like, oh, those are really cool, where did you get them?” Marwah said. “Now the friend group is ingrained into the culture. It’s a by-product of trying to fit into an unserved niche.”

The sneaker resale market may be exploding — as the teenage boom grows, new business models emerge and more women enter — but like any aspect of fashion, it remains subject to cultural whimsy .

In the case of Ye, he quickly destroyed his own credibility and the Yeezy brand by espousing hateful anti-Semitic rhetoric and aligning himself with far-right figures such as Alex Jones, costing him a multibillion-dollar deal with Adidas.However, the rarest shoes he has collaborated with brands like Nike and Adidas in the past Still charging close to $20,000 on StockX, The premier online marketplace for sneakers.

Some, like SoleSavy’s Pralica, have vowed to stop sourcing Yeezys for their subscribers, arguing that any association is toxic and morally reprehensible. Others, like Kickz, expect demand for Yeezys to soar due to the scarcity of the market.

At the end of the day, a resale business is a fashion business; trends come and go, and culture shifts with the speed of the slide. But no matter which celebrity is driving the market, a passionate community of sneakerheads — and dealers connecting them — will keep the culture alive.

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