The Marketplace Boom   //   February 7, 2023

How mid-tier brands like Hoka and Salomon are changing the sneaker resale game

Thanks to a resurgence in retro-style running shoes, brands like Hoka and Salomon are gaining traction in sneaker resale, eating into a market long controlled by the likes of Nike and Adidas.

While legacy footwear giants remain dominant, sneaker aficionados are increasingly gravitating towards mid-tier, more niche brands to add some variety to their collections and explore shoes outside of the hype sneaker space.

Nike, Jordan Brand, Adidas, New Balance and Converse were the top-selling sneaker brands last year on the resale site StockX. However, in a major victory, Salomon was StockX’s fastest-growing sneaker brand of 2022, up 2,277% over 2021. Hoka, in second place, was up 713% over 2021. Meanwhile, brands like Asics are gaining traction thanks to collaborations with buzzy design studios like JJJJound. Together, these players are posing more of a challenge to resale giants, although they still have a far ways to go before they catch up.

“These brands are having a great run,” Drew Haines, director of sneakers and collectibles at StockX, told Modern Retail. “The sneakerhead is saying, ‘I’ve got a lot of Jordans. I’ve got a lot of Dunks… What could I have to maybe stick out from the crowd that’s a little bit different?’ That’s what I think is driving a lot of that growth for those smaller niche brands, if you will. And I think that will continue in 2023.”

While it depends on the model and colorways, overall, these niche brands seem to resell closer to their retail price, which may make them more attractive to potential customers. StockX’s Nike Air Force 1 Low Off-White Brooklyn had the highest average price premium of any sneaker in 2022, at 912%. Meanwhile, most Hoka One One Bondi 7 and Asics Gel-Kayano 14 sneakers have price premiums in the single or double digits.

Many of these newly-buzzy brands have brought in huge amounts of revenue for their parent companies. Deckers, which owns Hoka, reported a record $1.346 billion in net sales for the third quarter. Hoka’s net sales shot up almost 91% year-over-year to hit $352.1 million. The brand’s popularity is “exceptional,” Deckers’ CEO David Powers remarked in a recent earnings call. “It’s working as we planned, probably better than we planned,” he said.

One of the things that makes Hoka and Salomon so attractive to collectors is their collaborations, StockX’s Haines explained. Last summer, Hoka rolled out a line with Free People, and the brand has also partnered with Moncler and Engineered Garments. In January, U.K. designer Jean-Luc Ambridge announced he will partner with Hoka on an all-terrain footwear capsule. Salomon has worked with Palace, Comme des Garçons and Kith, among others.

2022 was StockX’s best year ever for sneaker resale, and Cowen projects global sneaker resale will reach $30 billion in sales by 2030, up from $6 billion in 2020. But industry-wide, sneakers are in a bit of a slump as the market has pulled back from 2021’s highs. Sneaker sales grew 2.7% year-over-year in 2022, a far cry from the 19.5% year-over-year growth seen in 2021, according to Business of Fashion. The slowdown in the overall market could have an impact on which shoes are listed on resale sites.

Sneaker resellers have also grappled with shifts in demand and interference from bots, as well as brand-specific challenges such as the chaos around Adidas’ Yeezy line. And with gas and food prices up in the last year, shoppers may have less money available to buy collectible hype sneakers, some of which can resell for thousands of dollars.

For sneaker resale, “I think the demand generally is still there,” Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, told Modern Retail. “The issue is whether the funds are there to pay for these things and to push some of the prices up to real topping premiums.”

Over the past few years, luxury brands have cemented their place in the sneaker resale market. In 2019, StockX branched out into the space to offer sneakers from Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior and Balanciaga. Even traditional marketplaces like eBay began to resell luxury sneakers to try to regain lost market value. Now, though, attention is shifting to other brands that may be more affordable and more attainable than the usual Nike or Adidas hype basketball shoe.

“When there was a lot of money sloshing around, people would be throwing cash at getting the sneakers that they wanted,” Saunders said. “Some people can still afford to do that. But there’s many more people who can’t really afford to do that. So there’s a bit more of a conservative attitude, I think, about buying sneakers.”

The niche brands that are doing well in resale, like Hoka and Salomon, are optimistic about their growth. Many are popular on social media and have taken off among Gen Z and millennial shoppers. They’re also relatively inexpensive, compared to some other brands in resale. Hoka, for example, has a pair of sneakers as low as $54 on Goat, while Salomon has a pair of sneakers at $64.

Based on their popularity, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sitting here a year from now in 2024 and we’re looking at the 2023 numbers, and we see Salomon and Hoka at the top of that list again,” StockX’s Haines said.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the Nike Air Force 1 Low Off-White Brooklyn had the highest average price premium of any sneaker on StockX in 2022.