Places like RIF LA and Flight Club have been holding down the vintage market in the Western world for years, and slowly but surely more and more professional avenues of re-selling sneakers have arisen. From Instagram to Facebook and the abundance of sneaker conventions popping up all over the place, the dynamics of selling sneaks have moved beyond bricks and mortar. Having a physical place to geek over sneakers with other like-minds is still essential for a healthy community, though, so Solebox's own Hikmet Sugoer is rightly proud to present Germany's first consignment sneaker store, Solemart Store. We caught up with Hikmet to get the low down – check it...
You opened Solebox more than 10 years ago, did you ever think that the Sneaker Industry would become as big as it is today?
The Sneaker Industry was always big, but the last couple of years have seen amazing in growth – good and bad, all at once...
More than 10 years ago, it was relatively easy to get limited shoes, as it was more of a hobby for heads than for the mainstream. Do you agree?
It was not really easier. Due to local releases and even really, limited quantities, it was always a hunt for kicks. There were less resellers on the market which made it somehow easier to get shoes, yes.
There are more and more sneaker stores popping up across the globe, which all stock similar products. You opened Solebox as one of the first specialist sneaker stores in Germany, and now Solemart is Germany's first consignment store – tell us about the idea and how the concept came about.
For me, this is a sad progression. Brands are getting more and more greedy and opening one 'limited' account after another. They even start to do serious business via their own channels, slowly eliminating the need for middle-man retailers. This is a short time view and I am not sure when this will let up. The idea of the Solemart Shop is different from a regular sneaker retail store – it is a consignment store. Many of us have trainers which we simply do not wear. Solemart Store gives those types of collectors the opportunity to sell these kicks in an easy, friendly manner, in a physical store. Solemart Shop cares about everything sneakers and you get your money once sold – that's it, that's all!
When you see the sneaker industry today, compared to back in the earlier days, there are more limited editions than ever, which to most part 'sell out' dramatically fast – what do you think about that current colab trend?
Colabs are really important for the business, but within reason. I know Solebox is doing a lot of these too, but trust me, we often do say 'no' to projects. What you see going on retail are well chosen projects. I am repeating myself, but this is based on greediness of the market. Everything has to be 'business' and needs to make money, but the initial idea of doing colabs is more marketing than business – and you do not need hundreds of colab partners for that. Today, you see projects from stores and brands you've never heard of before. So, the brand is pushing the partner instead of vice versa, and that´s why it all gets inflationary.
(Just a small selection of colabs Solebox is responsible for)
Many people just buy limited shoes to re-sell them. It´s annoying for those who really want to wear the shoes. What is your opinion on that?
Re-selling was always a part of what we call the 'sneaker game'. As you mentioned, we have more re-sellers in the game than ever. It feels like no one is buying for wearing anymore, but really just in it to make money. Shoes are made for wearing, not re-selling! On the other side of the coin, and for me personally, resellers are also good indicator if the project was successful or not. They hype things up and add extra free PR for a project or brand.
Sneaker conventions are nothing more than re-seller platforms as well. It works pretty good, as the people get to see limited shoes in person, which they usually don´t see anywhere else but the internet or magazines. Do you think that the conventions helped to make people interested in the 're-sell game'?
Sure. Sneaker conventions are one of the main platforms of trade for re-sellers in the market, but on the same note they're a big help for the whole industry. Without these type of conventions, we would never had this peak we are currently in now!
As you spearheaded the Solemart Berlin convention for numerous years now, at what point did you decide upon opening a physical consignment store like Solemart Store?
I had this idea since day one, since I opened up Solebox and started the Solemart conventions, but never had the possibility to do so. After moving to the bigger store next to our old one, we still had the old store available. So we utilised the opportunity and made the idea into reality.
In the US they have Flight Club and other stores like RIF LA, who have been re-selling sneakers for many, many years – why did it take so long to open up a store like this in Germany?
I guess, it is the man-power and money needed to open a shop like this that held us back at first – and in essence we are not looking to earn a whole lot of money back with it. We're doing it as a fun project for us, good if it works, no problem if not – we will always love what we do!
You had the solemart.de platform from a very early stage, then klekt.in arrived on the scene and was directly accepted, even if solemart.de was there way before. Do you think, you were too early with this concept?
Good point. Yes, we were too early at this time. We charged in the beginning for sales which people did not like as well, and klekt.in is for free. People like to get everything for free, you know. The main point was, that we were definitely too early with this platform and the people did not get the idea outside of existing platforms, like eBay.
Let´s talk about the technical aspects of the store, there are shoes going on eBay or klekt for ridiculous prices – how will you rate the price of the shoes you sell?
We do a combination of asking the seller and checking average sales prices of the items to find a price that is good for us and the seller. Not too high and not too low is the key.
When people try to negotiate the prices, what will you do?
Nothing. We do not negotiate on the prices. Solemart Shop is not meant as a bazaar.
How many shoes can you place in the store?
The maximum should be around 500 different shoes and styles.
Will there be a vintage corner as well?
Everything interesting is welcome at Solemart Shop – we love vintage!
Is there another store planned at the moment?
Yes, but a classic Solebox Store in Munich at the end of July.
Thans for the interview, Hikmet, and good luck for the future.