Josh Luber, who turned his childhood passion for sneakers into a multi-billion dollar business, embodies the very definition of entrepreneurial spirit. For many, he is also the American Dream personified. After starting and selling several business ventures and obtaining his MBA, he created and launched Campless in 2013 while working at IBM. A blog of sorts, Campless became a way for Luber to share his findings on the secondary sneaker market. It would eventually morph a few years later into StockX, which Luber jointly founded with Greg Schwartz and famed American businessman and investor, Dan Gilbert.
StockX, an online marketplace, began with an emphasis on the sneaker resale market but has since also evolved into a retail destination for covetable, high-end goods. As of last October, StockX launched its fifth major vertical – collectibles – which offers products such as skateboard decks, house toys, and trading cards. After sneakers, handbags, watches, and streetwear, this new product category marks StockX’s successful shift toward becoming a universal ‘stock market of things,’ a progression that had been anticipated and purposely embedded in the company since its inception. “It was always about the model and the bigger idea behind it – that’s why we called it StockX and not ‘SneakerX’,” stated Luber. “It was about figuring out those mechanisms that connect buyers to sellers and applying it to consumer goods, which theoretically, can be anything from sneakers to luxury products.”
Merely three years after its launch, the Detroit-based company is currently valued at over $1 billion and has amassed 2.4 million followers on Instagram alone – all eager to buy, sell, and track the company's hefty inventory of verified authentic goods. “Over the last five or six years, leading up to StockX, there was massive growth within the sneaker world and that was in great part a function of social media,” said Luber. The co-founder and former CEO cites Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram – and its subsequent growth and exponential spread as a social networking service – as the impetus for exposing sneakers to a much wider audience, rendering it a global phenomenon. “At that point, many brands and companies were trying to get into that retail space but also trying to figure out better models than Ebay,” explained Luber.
Yet Luber insists on that fact that StockX didn’t start out while trying to figure out a better model than companies like eBay. Instead, the company was conceived trying to answer a single but imperative question: “What’s a fair price for these shoes?” To do so, Luber used the business insight he uncovered while working on his previous endeavor. “Campless was like the Kelly Blue Book for sneakers. I built it by scraping eBay data starting from around 2012. That’s when interested parties began to approach me wondering how that information could be leveraged to create a different marketplace.” By analyzing sneaker collections through the lens of a stock portfolio, StockX was able to see how its value shifted over time. When starting the company, Luber knew the concept was “truly revolutionary” but needed a way to apply it in a real life setting. “The thing is, we also didn’t really make any of this up,” admitted Luber. “We just copied how the stock market worked. Once we had that as a framework, we knew we had something that was massive, at least theoretically. We still had to go out and execute it, and, in a way, we started with sneakers to prove that it could work.”
As the line between retail and resale continues to blur, the resell market is slowly but surely becoming one that brands might not be able to continue ignoring, sometimes dismissively. In fact, current data from fashion resale site thredUP forecasts that the resale market will double from $24 billion currently to $52 billion by 2024. At that rate, it will surpass fast fashion. While, according to Luber, there are still too many brands and industries that shun the resale market, the seasoned entrepreneur knows that timing is everything. “I don’t know if this could have happened 10 or 20 years ago because, in a way, even three years into this, we’re still dealing with some of these same issues.”
The StockX marketplace is estimated to generate around $2 million in gross sales each day, putting it in quite a prime position that most fashion brands would be envious of. But despite this, Luber still runs into resistance: “We’re a billion dollar company and probably sell more Nike products than anyone in the world, other than Nike or Footlocker, but it’s still a ‘we don’t know if we should work with the secondary market’ type of attitude. I don’t get it.” It is apparent when addressing this topic that Luber is not necessarily bothered by it as a business challenge, but rather more in terms of the principle of the matter, simply because it stifles potential market growth and hinders the possibility of beneficial changes in the retail space as a whole. “This seems counterproductive,” he explains, “because the more barriers like these that are brought down and the more markets converge together, the better the model will become; which also means better transparency, more liquidity, and fairer pricing.”