Josh Luber wants to revolutionise the streetwear economy with his platform StockX, a marketplace for sneakers and luxury goods that ensures pricing stability and product authenticity, while providing users with hard data on how specific products are selling.
Having grown up in Philadelphia, attended school during the 90s and played basketball when Michael Jordan was on the scene, Luber’s journey to becoming a ‘sneakerhead’ is textbook. Translating it into a fully fledged business endeavour, however, wasn’t always on the cards. ‘I’m a startup guy. I’d run three others before I launched StockX,[and] they have nothing to do with sneakers. I intentionally separated business and pleasure,’ explains Luber, although he admits ‘the venture that’s been the most successful is the one that’s seen them come together.’
Most marketplaces function on the same principles: supply, demand and the fundamentals of how you treat buyers and sellers. When Luber launched StockX in the US in 2016, though, he wanted it to operate more like a stock market.
In short, this means it operates on three tenets: anonymity, authenticity and transparency. While traditional marketplaces focus on seller validation, StockX buyers and sellers operate anonymously, in the same way a stockbroker would. A seller can list their product on the site, while buyers place bids. Once a bid and an ask match a sale is automatically made, preventing price inflation and bidding wars. Each product is then authenticated by the StockX team before being shipped. Transparency is key, too. Every bid, ask and sale is listed online so that users have access to the data.
After two years operating Stateside, the service formally launched in the UK in early October. Luber talks us through the UK launch.
What’s behind the rise of the resale economy?
The resale economy has always existed. Not just with sneakers, but in almost every market where you have fundamental differences in supply and demand. It’s basic e-commerce. But there have been notable changes in the sneaker resale world: the release of Jordans in 1985 that created a supply and demand imbalance in shoes; the moment eBay allowed people to buy and sell clothes globally; and the launch of Instagram that allowed sneakerheads to show off their kicks, in turn bringing more people back into the marketplace through product visibility.
Is this economy impacting traditional fashion houses?
Almost everyone has worn sneakers at some point in their life for some reason. They aren’t a foreign concept to anyone – let alone people who work in fashion houses – and I think the growth of this economy provides them with a medium for amplified creativity. Every time we think there’s nothing new to be done with a sneaker, someone proves us wrong.
What are the challenges launching in the UK compared to the US?
The challenge was that we’re not local, but that’s what’s lead us to the UK. We had no local currency, shipping was coming from the US so that was expensive, duties and VAT weren’t clear. The UK is the place with most supply for both sneakers and streetwear, so now we’ve established an operations centre there to reduce shipping times.
What’s your advice for founders expanding their business internationally?
Be local. We happen to have products that people want globally, but theres no way we’re naive enough to think that you can sit in your office in the US and understand what’s going on elsewhere. We have an operations centre here, but we’ve also hired a new team to work in a London office.
What about when it comes to handling rapid growth?
It’s all about people – a part of the business that I’m 100% involved in day to day. Hiring great people is something that you can control. Once they’re in the company there’s too much work and you can’t possibly micromanage all of that, so you have to trust them. If you get the right people everything else falls into place.