For a lot of people, sneakers aren't just a passion — they're a highly profitable business. As with any business, the less you pay for your products, the more profit you will be able to make. However, in the sneaker industry, getting the best price from manufacturers can be quite complicated.
If you're selling new sneakers, the first logical course of action would be to get a wholesale account with top brands like Nike, Converse, Adidas, New Balance, Puma or Under Armour, but whether you can get an account will first depend on where you plan to sell those sneakers.
Why You Can't Be an Authorized Sneaker Vendor Online
If you plan to sell sneakers online, getting a dealer account with any of the top brands is going to be next to impossible. This could change in the future, but in 2020, it's just not going to happen. Sneaker manufacturers already have their own websites, as do their major retail partners. So, they simply aren't interested in helping you to compete with them online.
Diverting sales from their own direct-to-consumer shopping carts and those of their major retailers is just half of the problem. The other problem is that online sales partners are hard to monitor for counterfeits. There's very little to stop someone from becoming an online authorized reseller of a good product and then selling counterfeits instead.
In fact, Nike even eliminated its partnership with Amazon in 2019 because it was competing with counterfeits of its own products and losing. There may be smaller or younger companies willing to let you be an authorized reseller online, but for the major brands, the best you can hope for is to be an affiliate, where you get a small commission for referring your website visitors to them.
How You Can Become an Authorized Sneaker Reseller
If helping people find the perfect pair of sneakers is truly your passion, your best bet in getting a wholesale account with any of the major manufacturers is to own a retail store, ideally selling shoes or sports equipment. Get a copy of your balance sheet ready so you can show them you're serious about your business.
If you don't yet own a store but plan to open one, you'll likely need a good business plan. It should detail your sales goals and your marketing plan, and it should explain what makes your store better than the others in town that are already selling the sneakers you want to be selling.
With these documents ready, you also need to determine how much you plan to spend in inventory with your first order as well as what you plan to buy in the future. Once you have this detailed, you should have everything you need to start approaching the manufacturers for a retailer agreement.
Applying to Nike as a Retailer
To become an authorized Nike retailer, you can apply using the company's online retailer application form. With Nike, you will need to already have a business license from your local government, and you need to have a retail storefront.
If you don't have these yet, you may want to wait until your store is ready to open. In the meantime, you can contact the other companies with which you want to work.
When you do apply to Nike, read the application form carefully and fill in every field. Incomplete applications will not be processed. It can take up to 60 days for your application to be considered, so patience is a virtue. Keep in mind that if your application is approved as a Nike retailer, this does not authorize you to sell Nike products online.
Applying to Other Sneaker Companies
Not all sneaker companies have an online application form. If the shoe or sports company with which you want to sign up doesn't have one, you'll have to give them a call.
For New Balance, call the company at 1-800-343-1395 and press "1" when prompted for customer service. When you're prompted for your dealer number, continue to hold and you will be connected with a brand representative who can answer your questions.
To inquire with Adidas about a reseller account, you can call the company at 971-234-2107. If you want to sell Converse sneakers, you're out of luck. Converse is not currently accepting new applications.
Do You Really Need to Be an Authorized Reseller?
It's common knowledge that anyone in the United States can resell just about anything that was legally purchased. You can resell the car you bought, the house you bought and the sneakers you bought for any price you would like. If you can buy sneakers on sale or buy them in bulk to reduce the price, there's nothing to stop you from selling them online or in your own store at a markup.
The practice of buying products from other resellers at a discount and then reselling them is known as retail arbitrage, and it's quite common among those selling sneakers, especially online. The problem with this model is that it's seldom sustainable.
Suppose you found a limited half-price sale on sneakers from a reseller or got a bulk deal from a manufacturer. You would probably make some good money, but as soon as your inventory dried up, you would have to find another great deal immediately, or you would have nothing left to sell.
Advertising and Authorized Sellers
Another problem with retail arbitrage is that your ability to market and advertise sneakers is limited. The true value in having an authorized reseller agreement is that it gives you the legal right to use a manufacturer's trademarks. Unauthorized resellers should talk to an attorney experienced in trademarks and intellectual property law.
If you were an authorized reseller of Nike shoes, you would be entitled to use the Nike logos and slogans because it would be in your reseller contract. Without a reseller contract, you may still be able to state that the shoes you are selling are Nike, but you would open yourself up to a lawsuit if you began using Nike's intellectual property in your advertising and marketing endeavors.
Buying Sneakers From Distributors or Wholesalers
If you're unable to get an account with a manufacturer for your retail store or if you're determined to sell sneakers online, you can buy them from other sources at wholesale prices. In some cases, buying from a distributor or wholesaler may get you a better price than buying directly from a manufacturer, particularly if you're not buying a lot.
The problem with buying from anyone other than the manufacturer is that you run the risk of buying counterfeits if you're not careful. If you want to buy Nike at wholesale prices, for example, look for authorized Nike wholesale suppliers.
If you're looking at wholesalers on AliExpress, for example, you should read the customer reviews very carefully. If in doubt, try contacting the manufacturer to find out if the wholesaler is really what it claims to be. If you're still uncertain, research the sneakers you plan to buy so you can tell the difference between a counterfeit and the real thing and then order a sample pair to examine them yourself.
- Nike: How Do I Become a Nike Retailer?
- Nike: Electronic Retailer Application
- Adidas: How Do I Inquire About Partnership Marketing and Bulk Orders?
- Adidas: FAQ
- O'Brien Patent Solutions: Is It Legal to Buy Products From Stores and Resell Them Online as New?
- New Balance: Who Can I Contact To Sell New Balance In My Store?
- Bloomberg: Nike Pulling Its Products From Amazon in E-Commerce Pivot
- Converse: How Do I Become a Converse Retailer?
- Under Armour: How Can I Become an Affiliated Under Armour Seller/Dealer?
A published author, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years and used to teach computer science at Algonquin College. He is currently the owner of Mad Hat Labs, a web design and media consultancy business. David has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and websites including American Express, Samsung, Re/Max and the New York Times' About.com.