A guide for selling rare or limited edition trainers online

Whilst many people see trainers as little more than just another piece of clothing; for some, it's a whole industry of rare, limited edition, golden opportunities (sometimes, very literally, as the gold-dipped Nike Dunks can attest). For these collectors, trainers aren't just items to buy for less than £20 down at the sports shop, but instead much more of a status symbol. In fact, some aren't ever worn even once, with those who can afford it going down the route of buying two: one to "rock" and one to "stock".

These trainers aren't just a couple of hundred pounds from shops on the typical high street, though. For rare collector's editions, figures can reach into the tens of thousands.

For example, in 2003, Nike released its Dunk Low Pro SB 'Paris' edition, with assistance from French painter Bernard Buffet. Only 202 pairs were ever made and each was unique, making the trainer a huge collector's item. As such, the average price for one of these Paris editions was a staggering $3,500 (£2,162).

Some are rarer still. Sticking with Nike, collaborator Jeff Staple created a Low Pro SB 'Pigeon', which echoed the bird's colours with multi-tonal greys atop a bright orange sole. It even came with an image of a pigeon embroidered into the heel for good measure. Just 30 of these were ever made and the ensuing scrum to grab a pair even made the news, which went as far as to call it a "riot".

So what about those who want to sell a pair they have in their possession, or even for those who want to get into the business and set up a dedicated online presence? As noted already, there is a huge market for rare trainers, so can be quite an enticing business with which to get involved, but there are a few considerations which need to be addressed in order to start off on the right foot.

Know your stuff

Thankfully, in today's internet age, all the information anyone could ever want is available at the touch of a button. As such, experience and expertise is somewhat redundant, with it all being just a quick Google away.

That being said, anyone selling rare, limited edition or otherwise valuable products still really needs to know their stuff, as there are huge potential ramifications for mistakes.

Considered v Impulse

Where sales are concerned, products are often split into one of two categories, 'impulse' and 'considered'. Impulse buys, like chocolate bars or bottles of drink, can afford to be a little more free and easy with the price because they are high volume - low profit goods.

More considered purchases, such as rare trainers, however, require a little more thought and the buyer will often have done their research beforehand. Therefore, the seller also needs to be clued up, as this will ensure their product is priced correctly for both a reasonably quick sale but also a worthwhile profit. For amateur sellers looking to shift one individual pair or a small number, this should be a relatively straightforward process, as there should be sufficient information on how much individual items can be expected to fetch, which can then be offset against hopes or expectations.

For career retailers, this also spills over into stock ordering, with those in the know being able to get in the right items at a good price that they know are going to sell. The options here could be American editions which cost more but have no competition in Britain, or slightly less desirable trainers which may be more well known (and therefore more affordable), even if there are others already on the market.

Cast your net wide

This, again, is a situation in which the internet comes in very handy. Even those in urban yet affluent areas of central London may struggle to drum up enough passing interest to keep their business sustainable, so for those in less desirable hotspots, it could be even harder still.

Thankfully, internet retailing could provide the answer and may even be the prime source for many sellers. It also allows start-ups with little stock and no money to open a physical store in order to get started. In such a 'considered purchase' market as rare or limited edition trainers, it can be safely assumed that people will be willing to buy online and wait a few days for delivery if they find the right pair.

Get on the platform

All that is needed to start up an online venture is a platform, a payment system and delivery service. Of course, there are huge choices and options for each of these.

The platform can be an existing one, such as the eBay, Play or Amazon marketplaces. These are the most viable choice for anyone looking to sell small numbers. eBay, of course, has become almost synonymous with this style of selling and is a very well-known name, meaning that sellers can be sure their lot will reach a huge audience. Not only that, it's also a switched-on audience that is actually looking to buy, by dint of them being on an auction site in the first place.

If none of the marketplaces appeal to those looking at a more long-term option, however, a dedicated .co.uk website may give the brand more authenticity, even if development costs are slightly higher. Some may even want to run a website alongside their marketplace offerings, in order to get the best visibility.

Taking payment

For payment, escrow services such as PayPal have been established for long enough to mean they are almost universally recognised and trusted by web users. If not an escrow service, then actual e-commerce payment handlers can be installed with relative ease that will work just like even the largest sites. For those operating on Play or Amazon, meanwhile, they can leave this to the already-established services which have been in use for years.

The delivery, meanwhile, should be carefully thought out, as it is the last interaction a business has with their customers on each order, so can leave lasting impressions. Anything from slow deliveries to flimsy packaging and poor communication can prevent buyers from ever returning again, even if everything else has gone smoothly. That's not to mention the security issues of sending expensive goods such as rare trainers - where even the box is valuable, so should be treated as such.

Of course, once the parcel leaves the vendor's hands, their accountability for it comes to an end, but there is still a responsibility to the customer to choose a quality courier that has the same attention to detail as the retailer themselves.

This isn't just a consideration for anyone setting up a trainer retail empire but also those selling smaller numbers - or even a single pair. Having gone through the rigmarole of listing an item, waiting for it to sell then having funds transferred by the buyer, it would be a shame for it to all fall down as a result of poor packaging. Keeping everything wrapped and sent securely should prevent hiccups from spoiling the entire venture.

These are just some of the myriad issues facing anyone looking to set up a rare or limited edition trainer store. Knowing your stuff and casting the net wide, however, should provide a solid start and turn an idea or passion into a fully-fledged, sustainable business.

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