Ox Street Isn’t Your Traditional Sneaker Marketplace
Among a sea of online sneaker marketplaces, Ox Street shines a welcoming, inclusive beacon. The Singapore-based outfit's guiding principle is combining commerce and culture. Apart from their vast inventory of sneakers, their army of sneaker-loving staffers offer helpful services like sizing tips and personal opinions. They even pride themselves on staying in touch through the order process – Ox Street aren't the type of company to cease correspondence after they sell you something! As they expand their offerings, SF took a minute to sit with founder and CEO Gijs Verheijke to discuss the origins of his company, how it got to where it is now, where it's headed next and why they value people just as much as profit.
Give us the elevator pitch! How did your personal experience inspire the business and how did you get Ox Street off the ground?
I grew up in the Netherlands and got hooked on sneakers when I was around 10 and saw a beautiful pair of Air Max on the feet of a classmate. After a few years in the corporate world, I joined a company called Rocket Internet and led consumer marketplace startups across Asia. My time at Rocket, and as a freelance strategy consultant after, was a crash course in building and running startups.
My sneaker addiction was still going strong, and I got frustrated by how difficult it was to get good sneakers, even in Singapore or Bangkok. I also saw that Rocket's employees in Myanmar were super interested in sneakers and fashion. Their first paycheck would go towards a smartphone, but the second one always went to self-expression through style. The wave of a digitally native Gen Z was coming to Southeast Asia, and I realised there wasn’t a good platform for this new generation to shop.,
The final spark flew when I saw new marketplace models exploding in the US and China. I saw room to improve on what those other marketplaces offered, and got to work on building a platform for Gen Z in Southeast Asia with a marketplace foundation – but also a bigger vision to reshuffle elements of social, content and transactional models.
Where did the name come from?
The company was originally called ‘Sneaker Project’. We decided we needed a bolder name, and Ox was everyone’s favourite. It was inspired by the Ox, which is a symbol of strength and dependability in Asia. We also liked it for its visual impact and memorability – but it still felt ‘naked’ and in need of something more. We agonised over which word to add to it until someone came up with Ox Street. In addition, I was born in 1985, the Chinese year of the ox, which was an auspicious sign that we had the right name.
What are the key points of difference you’ve built into the marketplace for buyers and sellers?
Our customer focus. Brands like Supreme set a certain example of treating customers badly to create a certain vibe. If you're like them, you can get away with that as a part of your brand identity. However, Ox Street is a platform: we provide a service, not just products, so it’s critical for us to focus on building trust in every interaction. To do this, we’ve taken the idea of authenticity beyond just authenticating the products we sell. We also bring our personal authenticity to interactions with customers, regularly advising them on sizing and even which sneakers to get. If there’s something wrong with an order, or shipping is taking longer than expected, we're a lot more transparent about what’s going on behind the scenes than other platforms. Apart from that, we’re faster and slightly lower-priced for buyers in the APAC region.
Managing both culture and commerce is really difficult. How have you approached finding the balance?
That’s a good point! Because the start of my career was so numbers-driven and commercial, I've developed a gut feel about whether what we’re doing makes commercial sense or not. I believe that you can do the commercial work at set times and spend the day-to-day focusing on the cultural side of a business. We always start with what works for the customer, then see if we can make the economics work.
The sneaker game is becoming more and more of a global beast, but there are still some local markets with unique trends. What are some of the interesting things you’ve picked up recently through Ox Street?
One thing that surprises me is that Yeezy is still so strong. Despite what people say, every drop still seems to sell out. One of the most popular products on Ox Street in March was actually Yeezy Slides, and the vast majority of those went to the Philippines. Another very interesting trend over the past year is the revival of the New Balance 550. I think it’s super impressive how New Balance has run the playbook so far with a nice mix of colabs and GRs.
So much chaos over the last few years. What do you think the future of sneaker retail looks like?
In my mind, there are two main trends and opposing forces. The first is that brands are trying to get closer to their end-buyers, like Nike with their massive DTC push. That creates an opportunity for a platform like Ox Street – which is even closer to end-buyers – to facilitate the resale part of the market.
The other trend is the fragmentation of social media – and the expansion of the metaverse! I feel that a brand's relationship with their customers will become more important than ever, and the boundaries between the marketplace, social network and metaverse are going to blur. My dream is to build Ox Street into an app that’s still fun to use when you’re not buying or selling, one that's also more fun with your friends.
And finally, tell us about your top three shoes right now?
I’m still wearing the A Ma Maniere x Air Jordan 1 a lot, as well as the Patta x Nike Air Max 1. I’ve also been collecting the New Balance 2002R ‘Protection Pack'.
You can download the Ox Street app right now! Click here for iOS and ,here for Android.