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Utah kids and adults make big money selling sneakers

Posted at 9:55 AM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 12:04:02-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The hottest fashion accessory right now might be sneakers. Athletes and celebrities team up with major shoe companies for big bucks collaborations that lead to sneakers that are hard-to-find at local stores.

And those lucky enough to grab a pair rarely wear them. Instead, they're taking advantage a booming business.

Sneakerheads is a term that transcends generations. People young and old cashing in on the growing aftermarket of sneaker sales, where profits can be high.

The sneaker resale business is simple enough for even kids to operate out of their parents' house.

"It was middle school when I started to get into it," said Cole Allen, who still has a makeshift work room off his parents' kitchen in Draper.

"This is a cool way to make some money."

Under his business name "Salt Lake Kicks," Allen buys limited-run sneakers on release day, and then immediately flips them for often hundreds over the retail price.

In an age where transactions to the world are just a social media platform away, the return on investment can be huge. In fact, Allen recently had his best sales month ever.

Inside Jordan and Kade Hamel's Topshelf store in downtown Salt Lake City, sneakers that sold for $110 will now cost you up to $2,000. Topshelf is just one of a new trend of retail stores popping up around the country.

"The culture is everywhere now," Kade says. "Everyone's into sneakers. We can't keep this stuff in stock right now."

Businesses like Topshelf and Salt Lake Kicks are making money off the formula the two biggest players in the industry, Nike and Adidas, created: making shoes, and positioning them as a social status.

"They put them on celebrities. They put them on athletes, and it just shoots the value up, and it shoots the want and the need and the desire to get the shoe," said Jordan.

Getting pop culture's in-demand shoe from the manufacturer is not easy.

"They put out a certain amount; the know that everybody wants that shoe, and not everybody can get it," Jordan said.

Sneakerheads call shoe releases "drops." Those are the days that manufacturers schedule a new sneaker to go on sale, and often create a lottery system to get the prized shoes.

Despite the odds, the hunt for the sneaker is part luck, part business, and part history.

"Michael Jordan is the GOAT. He's been my mentor since I was a little kid and has made this what it is today," said Vernon "Sizzle" Simms, owner of Hybrid Base.

Simms is a kingpin when it comes to cool kicks. Six years ago he started canvassing shoe shops and online platforms to build his sneaker portfolio, and hasn't stopped.

These days, Simms operates two warehouses to store all his stock. He says he's pulling in a "couple million" in revenue per year.

The latest estimate by Forbes magazine has the sneaker resell market at well over $2 billion a year, and is predicted to grow to $6 billion by 2025.

"It's funny, when you get a kid in here that has a $1,000 shoe and only paid $110 for it, so he makes his whole year's worth of 'mowing lawns money' in one go," said Jordan.

In a way, the sneaker resale business is making entrepreneurs out of young kids.

"It teaches you really good lessons on how to save, and it's like little mini-stocks," said Allen. "It's a really cool platform to learn business and do it in a fun way."

Topshelf will be holding a vintage Utah Jazz pop-up Saturday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at their location at 65 West 100 South in Salt Lake City.