Michael Irene and three college buddies from the University of Central Florida have turned their sneaker-collecting hobby into a business, bringing the SoleFest sneaker trade show to the Palm Beach County Convention Center on Saturday.
About 300 people showed up to sell and buy rare sneakers or just check out the collection of hobbyists in a growing and increasingly profitable secondary market.
For years, Irene said, Nike has been releasing limited edition of sneakers that can sell for $200 in chain stores, $500 in boutique shops and then for thousands more in the secondary market.
Other shoe companies have been catching on, but Nike was the big draw to Saturday’s event.
“A lot of the big-name brand companies that work in footwear don’t really know about the reseller market quite yet,” said Irene, 21, from Miramar. “Now they’re realizing why Nike has been boosting prices, because they know kids are willing to pay more for it once the shoes are off the market.”
Myles Bratt showed off his collection of rare sneakers. His most prized pair, the Watch The Throne LeBron 9, is supposed to be one of the most limited runs ever, with most of them made specifically for LeBron James, Jay-Z, Kanye West and other close friends of James, the Miami Heat superstar. Those shoes have sold for $4,500 or more on eBay.
Bratt said most of his shoes are size 15, with the LeBron 9 in a 16, the same size James wears. So while Bratt might be willing to sell if the price is right, he mostly just shows off his collection at shows like SoleFest.
Irene said SoleFest, which has already passed through Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville, is growing and now features clothing. But it’s still mostly about the shoes.
“Because these shoe releases are so limited, you have people who find it very easy to go through the system and find loopholes, and they will buy 20 pairs — keep one, wear one and then sell 18 and you’ll make a lot of money,” Irene said. “That’s where the money really kicks in in the shoe game.”
Irene said Saturday’s event in West Palm Beach was successful and he hopes to return later this year.