Josh Luber is the co-founder of StockX, the first “stock exchange for things”: notably watches, handbags and, above all, sneakers. The online trading place connects sellers and buyers over hard-to-find items, the price of which varies and is tracked over real time. Luber, who was an analyst for IBM, has been an ardent collector of sneakers for decades – he has over 350 pairs – but was able to realise his tech start-up with the backing of billionaire founder of Quicken Loans Dan Gilbert. StockX, based out of Detroit, has recently opened its European office, with plans to open further outposts across the rest of the world. Luber spoke with MojehMen.
MM: Why is there a need for a stock market of things?
JL: Outside of the stock market, this is a revolutionary idea. We already have Ebay for those unique items. And the Amazon model is about selling products of unlimited supply. But there’s nothing for those items in between – those items of high liquidity, of controlled supply and high demand. StockX didn’t make this idea up of course – we just applied what gets used to sell oil, for example, to other products. I launched three start-ups before this and didn’t want a business that allowed me to play with sneakers all day. The excitement for me is in the start-up. I don’t wear a watch and don’t know much about women’s handbags. It just so happens that sneakers are the perfect item for a stock market, because it’s all about supply and demand. And, unlike watches, there are plenty of people who can afford sneakers.
MM: Sneakers are notorious for people queuing for days outside stores before a new style drops, and then for people selling those sneakers on for profit almost immediately. StockX facilitates that. Is that a good thing?
JL: Well, I don’t think you could ever get enough pairs of, say, Nike Jordan Black Cement to build a portfolio based on sneakers, even if a pair like that, bought at retail, will outperform the Standard & Poor index, or even Apple shares. I wouldn’t recommend anyone become a day trader in consumer goods. StockX is more a way of people getting to the products they really want. And whether you believe selling on is a good thing or a bad thing, it exists and isn’t going away. I don’t think anyone who manages to buy a pair of Yeezy sneakers at retail does so without being conscious of their resale value. If you can buy at $200 and sell at $800, who wouldn’t buy, whether it was a pair of sneakers or a widget, especially in a massively liquid market?
MM: Are you concerned that, after being a phenomenon for so long, the sneaker market will peak, and that your business model will need to find another core product?
JL: Well StockX is now making bigger moves into offering watches and handbags too now, which are higher ticket items, though nobody buys them with the frequency with which some people buy sneakers. But I think the sneaker market has a long way to go before it peaks, because there’s a biased actor in the the middle of all this – the brands. In any other unregulated free market there are booms and busts. But the sneaker market has these big companies controlling supply to their own advantage. And the fact is that so many people remain fascinated by sneakers – everyone has worn a pair at some time, but then there’s the design, the art, the culture. That’s why all the big fashion houses are getting involved now. It’s a really exciting product.