Sneaker fever: The big business of the sneaker industry

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Sneaker Fever: The big business of sneakers. Sarah Bloomquist reports during Action News at 11 p.m. on May 16, 2017. (WPVI)

There are big changes in the sneaker game.

And one so-called big baller, Lonzo Ball, is a leading player in that change.

Before the UCLA standout has even been drafted next month, he and his family have begun marketing a sneaker and taking pre-orders. The cost: $495 and up.

"It's all about self-promotion and I think millennials like that," Joseph Hancock, a branding expert from Drexel University, said.

Hancock says men between 18 and 34 are the biggest buyers.

That reportedly helped generate more than $17-billion in sales last year and it has created a billion dollar secondary market at places like Suplex on South Street.

Owner Chris Kindig watches the trends and sneaker releases.

"If the hype is for real, they will sell out immediately in seconds and in turn, be on the secondary market with us," Kindig said.

Nike is still king, with most of its sneakers retailing between $100 to $200.

But Under Armour is emerging as a major player.

"Under Armour is really in the top three players in the sneaker market right now," Hancock said.

There are now more sneaker makers, designers, and more athlete and celebrity endorsements.

At Suplex, the hottest selling sneakers are Kanye West's Yeezy line made by Adidas, with many selling for over $1,000.

"If you asked us a couple of years ago about Kanye West and Adidas, we would all laugh," Kindig said.

"But young men are still primarily looking at the endorsement and who is endorsing the sneaker," Hancock said.

Limiting the number of sneakers made is a key strategy that drives up the price.

On the Adidas website, a new Yeezy model was already sold out. But Suplex has plenty of Yeezies.

And the most expensive sneaker in Suplex is the Eminem Carhartt 4. That is in the rapper Eminem.

"Extremely rare," Kindig said.

Eminem hasn't been on the top of the music charts in several years, but he released a limited amount of the Carhartt 4s in a family and friend's auction and to people on his tour.

"So we have it at $15,000. People might laugh and they get in awe of the price tag. But we laugh knowing it will sell," Kindig said.

Some parents might complain about the prices, but Hancock says we're just getting use to paying more.

"Basically, price desensitivity of consumers. We're so use to paying $100 for sneakers, what's $200?" Hancock said.

This sneaker fever isn't ending soon.

More high-priced sneakers are set for release this week alone.

Save your pennies.
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