According to data-mining company iiMedia research, China’s secondary market for sneakers has passed $1 billion this year and is one of the fastest-growing components of a $6 billion global market led by the United States.
“The stock market is risky and the property market is frothy, so investors are switching to speculation in the consumer sector,” said Zhang Yi, chief analyst with iiMedia Research.
Volumes are chugging along despite a Chinese backlash against the NBA last month, triggered when a Houston Rockets executive tweeted a message supporting Hong Kong protestors.
Fear of government intervention has forced app-based platforms like Poizon and Nice to take various steps to cool excess speculation.
Both also employ “sneakerheads” to inspect shoes traded on their platforms to root out counterfeits.
Nice’s Vice President Sun Qi told AFP only 0.01 percent of sneakers traded via Nice are found to be fake.
The commodification of sneaker culture doesn’t sit well with everyone.
Wang Yue, 21, considers himself a sneaker purist, and one look at his Shanghai flat confirms it.
The tiny apartment is stacked to the ceiling with boxes of more than 200 pairs of sneakers that he estimates are worth hundreds of thousands of yuan.
A basketball fanatic, sneakers are a “daily necessity” to Wang, who lavishes attention on them, including physically sucking the air out of bags containing the shoes to protect them in a sort of DIY vacuum-seal.
Today’s soaring prices are a nuisance.
“I’m really annoyed that I have to pay more for a normal pair of basketball shoes now,” he said.
PICTURES BY MATTHEW KNIGHT. VIDEO BY LIANCHAO LAN AND MATTHEW KNIGHT