Exploring the growing sneaker resale scene in the Philippines

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Ox Street makes the international sneaker subculture more accessible to Filipinos. In photo: Ox Street CEO Gijs Verheijke. Photo courtesy of OX STREET

Like most sneakerheads, Ox Street CEO Gijs Verheijke became fascinated with sneakers and the culture that comes with it at a young age. “My classmate had Nike Air Max 1 (the ones with visible Air in the sole) and as a ten-year-old kid, the idea of owning a pair was the best thing in the world,” shares Verheijke.

“But my mother said to me that it was too expensive so she got me the cheap Reebok [pair] instead. Once I started delivering newspapers as a boy and started getting my own money, I bought a lot of sneakers and I found myself having way too many shoes.”

Verheijke’s experience may sound familiar to that of most sneaker fanatics. Much like any other collector, they usually try to get their hands on as many items as possible and the rarer, the better. The sneaker market runs on hype, or the demand for the particular item. There is a strong emotional buildup, due to the persistent demand and calculated low supply.

Gijs Verheijke’s fascination with sneakers started at a young age. “My classmate had Nike Air Max 1 (the ones with visible Air in the sole) and as a ten-year-old kid, the idea of owning a pair was the best thing in the world.” Photo courtesy of OX STREET

With a distinctive taste and a natural instinct in the comings and goings of trends, Filipino sneakerheads have gained popularity as a rising force in the international streetwear and sneaker scene. The country has frequently been on the list of limited edition sneaker releases from major brands (see: Asia-Pacific exclusive Off-White x Nike Rubber Dunk “University Gold”), while there’s also been an increase in Philippine-exclusive releases (see: the Air Jordan 4 “Manila,” with a resale value of $30,000 as of writing).

The high demand and low supply gave way for the need for a resale market. Surprising as it may sound, sneakers and other streetwear items have recently been considered as a form of investment in the vein of stocks, real estate, or fine art.

Marvin Conanan, editor in chief of local magazine Purveyr and the now-defunct Astron Sneaker Hunt says that reselling is one of the main reasons that sneaker culture grew in the Philippines.

“In some way, it proved to be a good case study of how ready the local consumer is for sneakers and the growing industry it’s cultivating globally,” says Conanan. “And on top of that, reselling is continuously gaining traction as a formidable industry in retail globally, so it’s easy to see how it will further spread in the Philippine sneaker and streetwear markets in the coming years.”

For generations, sneaker-obsessed youth camp (or go hours or days earlier to get in the release queue), scavenge on the aftermarket and resale apps, and basically do everything and anything just to get their hands on the latest sneaker drop. This chase has been a rite of passage. While sneakers are arguably for everyone, the sneakerhead subculture and way of life is not.

Certain limited edition sneakers typically go beyond their retail price and are notoriously hard to acquire in a world where being in the know is a form of cultural currency, and owning things others cannot easily access is a way to signal status. Getting these sneakers means getting respect in this growing community.

Maj Veloso, Creative Director of The Third World, a cultural platform that chronicled the country’s streetwear and sneaker subcultures, thinks the aftermarket has shifted in ways that have raised unique problems. “The sneaker reselling culture has grown so big over the past two decades, and a lot has changed since I’ve been introduced to the whole concept of it in 2007 to where it is now in 2022,” says Veloso.

Over the years, new players have made the sneaker scene more vibrant — from the stores at The Deck at Ronac Center to Nike Park outlets, and more recently, the boutiques at Commonwealth. At the onset of sneaker culture, people could just simply walk in the store and grab the latest pair. Resellers then had to import from skate shops in the US via balikbayan boxes and distribute them guerilla-style over on the now defunct social media network Multiply. When Nike Park first opened, going on release queues were the norm until slowly a different type of transaction was assimilated. Official retailers including Commonwealth and other boutiques have embraced the raffle system. This system draws from a pool of entrants that desire to purchase the item.

“Coming from a consumer’s perspective, there’s just too much drama that people aren’t noticing that it’s becoming toxic at this point,” Veloso says. “I’m glad to say that I’m over it already (Laughs)... Sometimes you miss camping out for shoe releases, but back then nobody got hurt. It’s all different now and it ain’t really fun no more.”

Carlo Ople, a digital marketer and creator has amassed a following for his straightforward sneaker reviews that appeal to more casual sneaker fans. He notes that his experience with buying in the resale market is rather uncertain. “I’ve had great experiences with local and international resellers — smooth and timely transactions for super rare pairs that I wanted in my collection,” shares Ople. Alternatively I’ve also had ‘not so nice’ experiences. There was one instance where I gave a [down payment] and it was supposed to arrive in two weeks but eventually arrived after four months.”

Enter Ox Street

While the sneaker resale industry has its downsides, all signs lead to an optimistic future for the scene. As the industry grows, its adjacent community has found more sophisticated ways to resolve certain issues.

In a market where calculated scarcity and exclusivity are the norm, making shopping easy is a radical act. Ox Street is one of the key players in the streetwear and sneaker aftermarket in Asia. According to Ox Street CEO Verheijke, the platform’s goal is to simplify shopping for limited edition sneakers by making it as easy as shopping for other more accessible items.

What makes the Ox Street app stand out is that they minimized the hassle of reselling by pretty much taking care of the entire process. If someone is looking to make the most in selling a pre-loved sneaker, all they have to do is start an Ox Street selling account, fill out forms, and ship the item for authentication.

This eliminates one of the main concerns in the aftermarket — guaranteeing the authenticity of the item. The legit checking method is carried by in-house experts who painstakingly utilize a manual process that examines every item in microscopic detail.

Ox Street is a buy-and-sell sneaker platform that caters to the Asian market. Photo from OX STREET

Each item is required to first be shipped to Ox Street before being shipped to the buyer. “The app considers itself as a seller and takes full responsibility in its catalog,” says Verheijke. This view allowed an ecosystem as an equal playing ground free from rude sellers, scammers, and most unpleasant figures in the scene.

These sensibilities in making the resale market more leveled, legitimate, and seamless are moving the needle in the scene in Asia.

On all markets Ox Street serves in Asia, sneakerheads love good deals. The app’s 11/11 sale (with free shipping) was a hit across all boards, proving that decent pricing is always appealing. The Philippine market, in particular, gravitates towards the midrange price point. Currently, Filipino buyers don’t usually go for the top tier sneakers or the “grails” but prefer the more sensibly priced pairs that give the same feel as the major ones.

Curiously, Verheijke and the Ox Street team have strong faith with how the Filipino sneaker resale market would grow. They pointed out how the market has a keen taste of what hits and what misses on sneaker releases and how the growing middle class would amplify the character of the market. On both retail and resale markets, the Philippines is a country to watch out for when it comes to sneakers.