The sneaker industry is booming. Brands like Nike and Adidas have dominated the market for decades, but now independent brands are taking their turns in the spotlight.
What's so special about these up-and-coming companies? They are focused on quality, innovative designs, and a community-driven ethos.
The Future of Sneakers
Some of my fondest memories as a kid were waiting in line at my local mall to cop the latest pair of Jordan sneakers. It wasn't just about the sneaker, much of the joy came from the experience of meeting and bonding with other sneakerheads over our shared passion. The experience was personal — whether I was camping out for a limited release or meeting up to make a trade, friendships were often made in the process. But as the global sneaker resale market has catapulted into a $6 billion industry, the once community-driven culture of buying and selling sneakers has changed from a social experience among like-minded collectors to one of faceless transactions that is driven by profit. That's why the next big boom in the sneaker industry isn't resale — it's customer experience.
The Rise of Independent Brands
With investors lining up to fund the businesses behind the sneaker resell boom, marketplaces like StockX and GOAT made it possible to find coveted kicks with a click. However, commoditizing sneakers works against the very consumers the industry was built to serve. Resell prices can surge as high as 50% above retail or more, fueling a growing frustration among sneakerheads who are tired of losing out to resellers who’ve monopolized the market. And the nostalgia that once tied sneaker loyalists to the brands they love can only go so far without a fair shot at buying them. With resellers utilizing bots to automate bulk purchases of the most coveted releases, brands like Nike are finding it increasingly difficult to put sneakers on the feet of those who actually want to wear them.
Why It's Important To Support Independent Brands
You may think it's the sneakers, but people are the most important component in sneaker culture. For years, the industry has thrived off sneakerheads feeling a sense of community built on a mutual love for sneakers. Humans are wired to feel connected to others. As a result, consumers expect the businesses they support to provide a sense of community that connects them with like-minded peers. However, legacy brands like Nike and Adidas are losing touch with their loyalists and many of their consumers are feeling pushed out of sneaker culture. This void in the customer experience has created an opportunity for independent brands to innovate in the space.
Forward thinking and creative designs offer a different style from the big brands. In addition to variation in design, colors, shapes and materials used; many independent brands also offer a more personalized experience than big name companies like Nike or Adidas. These smaller brands are focusing on the interests of sneakerheads first. Sneaker loyalists want fairness and inclusivity, and to build back the personal connections that once defined sneaker culture.