Long gone are those days where the term sneakerhead was used to describe a very particular sneaker-obsessed collector. Nowadays boys and girls of all ages and of all walks of life can comfortably call themselves the once coveted term without having to worry about offending the authorities. The widening of the sneaker world's rules has allowed, not only diehard footwear connoisseurs, but also casual sneaker buyers to fully immerse themselves, as they choose, in all things sneaker culture. Aside from rocking a fresh pair of kicks, fans can read books that have been written on sneakers, watch movies that have been made about sneakers, visit exhibits have been curated in some of the world’s most distinguished museums around sneakers, and also make some serious money in the billion-dollar industry that has been launch off of the reselling of sneakers.
The new kid on the block in the sneaker resale arena is Stadium Goods, brainchild of Jed Stiller and John McPheters. Along with Creative Marketing Officer, Yu-Ming Wu of Sneaker News and Sneaker Con fame, Stiller and McPheters have created, as Complex put it, “a novel concept that combines sneaker resale with a top-notch customer-oriented experience" with Stadium Goods. Here, CNNCTD speaks with John McPheters and Yu-Ming Wu about Stadium Goods, sneaker culture, and of course, sneakers.
CNNCTD: What got you into sneakers?
John McPheters: A friend of mines from Toronto reminded me that he had come to New York in ‘96 and we went running around trying to find Air Max 95s for like a week. We went to every shop and every hood trying to track them down. We only found one of two pairs, but that moment in time digging around for some shoes was probably what really locked it in.
CNNCTD: What was it about that experience that really locked it in for you? Was it the sneaker itself or was it the hunt for the sneaker?
JM: Part of it was the search. It was also actually finding it. It was also how they looked and the attention you'd get from having them, which isn't as gratifying now as it use to be. Back in the day when you came into the block with something crazy everyone would know you were really doing it. Now it's a lot more pervasive. Everyone has their thing. They use to be more like a hidden gem that you wouldn't see everywhere. That was part of what helped ingrain it in my head. I never thought I'd be in the sneaker business. It just all sort of worked out this way.
CNNCTD: Currently, what's your favorite pair of sneakers?
Yu-Ming Wu: That's so tough. I've been wearing the Sport Blue Jordan IIIs. I probably have 50 pairs that are in rotation right now.
CNNCTD: What triggers the changes in your rotations?
YMW: A lot of it has to do with the weather or the season actually. In the spring and summer I'm a little bit easier with my shoes. That’s when I'll start bringing out the delicate ones. Things that are like light suedes, meshes, light colors I wear strictly in the spring. In the winter I'm primarily wearing leather shoes that I can quickly wipe off, but the spring and summer is when I really dig into my closet.
CNNCTD: Here at Stadium Goods there are separate entrances for sellers and buyers. Why is that?
JM: In my mind, you have to make it a clean environment. You have to provide separate experiences. You have to keep it separate, because you can't provide a rich experience on both sides if they're together. For selling products, you can't have in the retail space sellers that are bringing boxes in. You don't want to co-mingle it. It's a messy experience and I think we lucked out having this space, because if there was a line of sellers in here, while people were trying to shop it wouldn't be this clean.
CNNCTD: You’re in a business that is built off of authenticity. Has it been a challenge finding people that are not only great at sales, but also very intune with the culture?
JM: We were lucky to find some really great people early on, but the real challenge was because we were selling an idea. We had to really seek out people who knew sneakers and were a part of the culture without this being here to show people what Stadium Goods was. Everyone came through for the most part though. In my mind a lot of it comes down to hospitality, going that extra mile, and educating people if they have questions. Why is a particular shoe $1,000? You need to have an answer for that if you're selling a shoe for $1,000. Our team is pretty well-versed. It's the same on the authentication side. They know all of the tricks. They know everything to look for - from tags to stitching, to the sole to the smell to the way that it's wrapped in paper. There are so many details that these guys know.
CNNCTD: What kind of research goes into finding out what products are must-haves?
YMW: Our staff is really good about reporting issues. If there's an issue we report it quick and we fix it. Audience research is the most important thing throughout everything that we do. It's figuring out what is not working, and then figuring out what that consumer wants. We have enough experience throughout the years that we've all been in this business.
CNNCTD: Tell us about the partnership with GOAT.
JM: I didn't want to spend time and energy on building out our own app. I was hoping to find someone doing the same thing and doing it well, so we could sell our products through that app. Out of the sneaker apps that are currently in the field GOAT has the best, cleanest, and strongest consumer experience. We approached GOAT pretty much right after we launched, because we saw the potential in what they were doing. For our sellers, it's another door they can go through. We want to make the sales process more efficient for the sellers, which is also why we partnered with eBay to sell through our proprietary eBay store. We also will do a lot of stuff with eBay on the content side of things, which will include photos, editorial, etc.
CNNCTD: What can we expect from the eBay partnership?
YMW: It's going to be a lot more around education. We published a piece how to spot a pair of fake Yeezys from a real pair. I think that's the stuff that will help consumers trust us a little bit more. This is especially important with the eBay crowd, because there are a lot of bad sellers out there. Those are the things that we'll concentrate on. For instance, we'll offer a history on Supreme collabs. That's something that we can quickly put together. The history of the Undefeated collabs, the Jeff Staple collabs, the Yeezys - we can do that. Those are the things that are very easy for us to produce that not only helps the consumers, but also shows off our knowledge as well.
CNNCTD: Spots like Supreme, VFiles, and others have created a culture where fans of the brands are comfortable to come around and just hang out. Are you looking to create that kind of atmosphere with Stadium Goods?
JM: What VFiles has done is incredible. The bench, the way they interact with their audience - it's incredible. I think we want to do a lot like that to foster the community within our walls, but it's gonna take some time for that to organically build. We like that kind of energy. We want to have a lot more in the way of events and functions that aren't just the DJ/party situation.
CNNCTD: Do you think the recent trend of random restocks will have a real impact on the resale market?
YMW: Nothing will affect this market at all or what we do here. Yes, Nike can do whatever they want, but in the end, the consumer will still find a way to get their sneakers. I just think that gives a lot more opportunity to a lot more people. I would prefer see those guys do really, really random raffles, so that way everybody has a chance to get their favorite sneakers. There really isn't any need for people to sleep for days outside of a store. Yes, people who are that committed to buying a pair should deserve it [laughs]. Consumers will always figure out a way to get what they want, so that will definitely not affect what happens here.
CNNCTD: I’ve come across several think pieces, which talk about how Instagram has either been the best thing or the worst thing to happen to sneaker culture. What side of the argument do you lean towards?
YMW: Everyone has their own mindset. If you like sneakers - end of story. If you're using Instagram to love sneakers even more then it's a great tool. If you think it ruins sneaker culture, then everything on the planet ruins sneaker culture. You wearing a pair of sneakers ruins sneaker culture. If you are a true believer in sneakers then you would think sneakers are like pieces of art that you really shouldn't put on your feet. Anything could have ruined sneaker culture. Some say we're ruining sneaker culture. People can say whatever they want. Everything has ruined sneaker culture [laughs].
JM: I would say it hasn't hurt. Instagram is a revelation of what's happening in the real world. More people might see things, because it's broadcasted, but those same things would be happening regardless. I think that there is a lot of spam and clutter that waters down life in general. I know in terms of reselling shoes there's a lot of comment sellers and people trying to traffic products, and that's not necessarily the best for how people view reselling, but I don't the think Instagram is bad. I love Instagram. It gives you a place to showcase your content. People are just much more connected now than they ever were before.
CNNCTD: Prior to collaborating on Stadium Goods, you guys have had a substantial amount of experience within the sneaker business. What has helped you to continue to be successful over the years?
JM: I think when you stop learning is when you are in trouble. Everything is changing and will continue to change. Anyone who struggles in any business, they are very comfortable with what it is and they don't change.
YMW: It's really around customer service. We think about our customers. If you think about your consumer or customer and you give them what they want and keep doing it in a very effective way you're going to be pretty successful. That's the same thing we've done around Sneaker News. We spent a lot of time early on researching what people wanted to see and read early. Early on they wanted to see Jordans, so we became the outlet for Jordans and everything you wanted to know about the brand. Slowly we got in and became the best of everything sneaker-wise. That's the level of dedication we have had to our consumers. It's the same thing with Sneaker Con. We're dedicated to our consumers. We looked at the shows out there and felt they didn’t care about their customers. We wanted to care about our customers. We wanted to create an extremely fun and safe place for them to come out. As a result, the show is a success. It’s been the same thing with Stadium Goods. We looked at the landscape and where we could make improvements? Dedication to our customers is what has set us apart, helped us maintain, and got us where we are today.
CNNCTD: It feels like the hype surrounding sneaker releases is what gets the younger generation of sneakerheads excited. It’s not really about the sneaker or the history attached to the sneaker, like it may have been in the past. What are your feelings towards this?
JM: Whatever floats your boat. If you spend a lot of your time trying to educate the kids on what they should be excited about - generation after generation the baton doesn't get passed. Kids are into what they are into, right? That's what they are into. Everyone has their reasons. I think it's our duty to explain what things were and what they mean. It's up to who's hearing it to figure out what they want to do with that knowledge, but I don't think we're in the business of telling people why they should like something. That's the fabric of culture now. Where does that interest come from? Who knows. Kids follow it. Buyers follow it. Consumers follow it. You just gotta let it be.