Sneaker 'game' sees big boost during pandemic

‘The Game’ refers to the business of reselling exclusive sneakers — a market, according to Cowen Equity Research, that will be worth $30 billion by 2030. 

"'The Game' during the pandemic? It definitely doubled," said Danny Hasbani. "I would say my revenue went up 100%."

While Hasbani, an 18-year-old Little Falls, New Jersey, native, has been playing 'The Game' since he was 14, he won big during the pandemic.       

"Basically, it's like a service charge. You're charging for your service. These brands drop a limited amount of shoes and there's not enough for everyone, if that makes sense. So let's say there are a million pairs and 2 million people want them. So the million that didn't get it are going to pay whatever the price is to get it," said Hasbani.

"The more people that come into 'The Game,’ the lower the prices because they're undercutting each other to try to get the best price. Now it just wasn't a service charge because the shoes were gone — it was a service charge because people were scared to leave their houses and going actually get the shoes," said Hasbani.

Jazerai Allen-Lord is the founder of True To Size agency and has worked with major brands like Adidas and Reebok.    

"I always compare it to like the iPhone, you know, and that's kind of like when the iPhone or Apple products were first dropping and you would see the lines--and also the PlayStation, I think it's very, very similar to what we saw in electronics previously," said Allen-Lord. "It's just weird to think about it in like footwear, but it's very, very difficult to get access to the product."

"And so what you see with sneakers — maybe it's only a hundred in the whole world — those sneakers are going for at least $1,500 when retail price was maybe $150, $220. So when you have margins like that, you're like, "'Why am I not selling sneakers? Like in today's economy?" said Allen-Lord.

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Hasbani estimates one of the most exclusive pair he ever got his hands on were the Off-White Jordan 1s, which he sold for $2,500 after purchasing for around $170.

When everything shut down last spring, the former high school football and wrestling captain went from having just a few hours in his day on top of school to work on his side hustle to having 10 hours a day to work on what became his business.

Although he couldn’t play sports they gave him skills to take his business to the next level.

"The determination. If my team always said that if we were going to do something, we're going to do it — it's the same thing with business. If you're going to go get that shoe — you're going to go get that and no one's really going to stop you," said Hasbani.

"Today's kids — especially Gen Z — they have an entrepreneurial mindset and they want to be in control of their career. They are their own brand and they're ready to develop that — reselling is just another arm of that," said Allen-Lord.

He adds there were a few factors that led to the recent boom in the industry.

"A lot of stimulus money and the retailers also needing to push product with brick and mortar closed. We saw a lot of sales and promotions. We also saw a lot of retros come back — just a lot of things you just typically wouldn't see in a sneaker calendar."

Brendon Dunne who covers the industry for Complex and Sole Collector adds the growth was also fueled by the online model.

"At the beginning of the pandemic, some sneaker resellers were worried that things would slow down a bit," Dunne said. "And some of the products did slow down for a while. Some of the supply chains were interrupted because of coronavirus, but really people were buying more sneakers than ever. The product was delayed in some ways, but the product did still arrive and people seem to have so much discretionary income at that period that it really kind of pushed sneaker reselling forward. Or there, there was so much more money being spent in the secondary market."

Resale sites have also exploded in popularity, with sites such as Stock X valued at almost $4 billion dollars.

As for Hasbani, 'The Game' has just begun for the rising sophomore at Montclair State. 

"I'll keep selling shoes forever. I think it's always gonna be a side hustle. The next thing I'm looking at is real estate and investing. Right now, it's not a good time to get into real estate because everything's crazy, but when it calms down and everything gets back to normal — that's probably the next thing."