A wall of sneakers.

Will Technology Kill The Streetwear Market?

Cop or drop? This is a common question among limited streetwear enthusiasts across the country questioning whether one should buy or pass on an upcoming clothing or sneaker release. However, for many people in the South this question has become null. There is no longer a need to ask if someone in the South will be trying to purchase many limited releases because Southerners are increasingly losing access to these products.

Many companies such as Adidas and Nike have begun to limit the release of some of their more highly anticipated sneakers to select cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, making them inaccessible to those interested in the South.

Many other popular brands only open shops in large cites in the Northeast and West Coast, which limits the availability in the South. Limited releases that become available online are also becoming increasingly harder to acquire due to the rise of bots.

What are bots? Bots are automated computer programs that help someone acquire limited releases. They do this by storing the user’s credit card information, size of the item being released, and shipping address, and continually refreshing the page until the second that the item is released.

These bots can refresh a page as many as several hundred times per second. Once the item is released, the bot automatically fills in all the user’s information and completes the checkout automatically.

Since these releases are often extremely limited. Bots often acquire the majority of the available product before regular buyers have time to enter their information. These bots are very expensive, and many who could afford them decide not to purchase one because many people view them as cheating the system and even borderline illegal; although, they are technically legal until companies decide to sue the creator of the bot.

I got one pair of limited sneakers through the Nike SNKRS app, the sole app that Nike releases limited shoes through, in over a dozen attempts. Bots have almost created a world in which, if you don’t have a bot or are not physically at a store that is carrying the release, your chances of having the opportunity to purchase the item are slim to none.

The insanely high demand paired with an extremely limited release has created a new market for fashion – the resale market. Items purchased for retail value during the limited release may be resold for a higher price to people who missed them and are willing to pay a higher price for the item. Many people who go for limited releases don’t even want the item for themselves; they solely want it for the resale value.

You may be wondering how a market like this could survive if it depends on people paying prices over retail value, but you would be surprised at the extra money some people are willing to spend to get their favorite limited apparel.

According to an article by Real Cobbler, the resale market for sneakers alone is valued at over $1 billion dollars. Some shoes that retail for $180 to $250 can be found on the resale market for over $1,000 dollars. The popular streetwear brand Supreme could release a sweatshirt for $168 that could be resold for over $1,000 dollars the next day.

As the resale market grew, companies sprouted up to facilitate the market for commission fees. Companies such as StockX and Goat allow users to resell items through their websites or apps, as long as the company takes a small percentage of the profit. Users are fine with the fee because it is often hard to find a buyer elsewhere, as these companies have comprised a large percentage of the resale market.

The resale market has also given rise to brick and mortar stores, such as Flight Club and Stadium Goods that source limited shoes and clothing and then resell the items for an increased price. As long as streetwear releases continue to be so limited, the streetwear market will continue to be dominated by bots, and the prices will be set by the resale market.

With the price of many of these items being set by the hype surrounding the item instead of the quality of the goods, some have begun to wonder if the streetwear market is becoming a bubble that will soon burst. Kanye West’s shoes, Yeezys, used to sell out in minutes and would be several hundred dollars more expensive on the resale market. Now, these shoes are available for days on their release website with little to no profit available for anyone looking to resell. Could we soon see this trend spreading to other brands as the hype starts to fade and people turn back to putting quality in the forefront of their purchasing decisions?

How long will comfort and hype outweigh quality and price when it comes to streetwear? I have a feeling these questions will soon be answered as the streetwear market finds itself no longer experiencing the unprecedented growth it has seen in the last couple of years. I believe that companies will have to make some serious adjustments, and only time will tell how the streetwear market will evolve in the years to come.


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