Sneakercon is fast becoming the premier global sneaker event to attend. Their storied history has earned them the tagline “Greatest Sneaker Show On Earth” and if you’ve been yo one of their events, then you know that this statement shouldn’t be taken lightly. Their second event of 2017 just kicked off on a cold Saturday, thousands of attendees filtered through London’s ExCel exhibition center to enjoy a full day of buying, selling, and trading the most exclusive sneakers and clothing on the market.
The masterminds behind the brand were also present and we caught up with co-founder and CMO of New York-based consignment shop Stadium Goods, Yu-Ming Wu. The man has constantly taken his passion for sneakers and parlayed it into various endeavors throughout the years such as Sneakernews.com an immense for the latest information on the freshest footwear brands.
We sat down with the head honcho to talk about the global growth of SneakerCon and its expansion into Europe, his history within the culture, and how he feels the event has been received by the UK and some of the difficulties that the brand has faced.
Tell us about your history in the sneaker scene?
I am just a guy that likes sneakers so much that I decided to devote my life to it. Back in 2003, I started a website to research the field of sneakers called freshnessmag.com. This covered the culture around sneakers including toys, apparel and interesting guys like Alife in New York City, that was really interesting to me, so early on I just took a deep dive. I then got my first shot working for Nike Basketball.com, I helped them develop a program to reach sneakerheads. They were creating these Flash-based experiential sites and I told them no, all these kids want to see is shoes, so we made the shoe the hero. I spent three years with them and while there I did more research and development of my own and I developed a site called Kicks Finder. From there I just understood that I should not just work in sneakers, but really dig deeper. At this point, I had to start a website just on sneakers. I remembered reading an article back in the early 2000’s that domains were the new real estate, so I bought a lot of domains and one of the domains that I bought was Sneakercon and another one was Sneakernews which I launched in 2007.
So how did Sneakercon come about?
Fast forward to 2009, I met two buddies who I knew through buying on eBay their dad actually owned a store in New York City selling baseball cards and I actually wrote about it on freshnessmag.com we realized that our offices were five minutes from each other and on the same block. So they visited me and we chatted. They then brought up the idea of doing a sneaker convention, I wasn’t really interested in it but they eventually convinced me to partner with them. Then I told them that I owned sneakercon.com and that’s how we got started. Every step you take is a stepping stone, from Freshness Mag, Kicks Finder, Sneaker News, Sneakercon until most recently I was invited to be a partner in a store called Stadium Goods in New York City.
What were some of the differences that might have been potential barriers that you encountered when bringing the brand to the UK?
I think the biggest barrier is that we are an American company and once you start doing business on a global level, things change quite a bit. For example, it’s very easy to register a company and start a business and move forward in the US, it doesn’t take much. But once you start moving into different countries, one your not a citizen, two you cant just open a bank account, so it’s a little bit harder to deal with financial wise and it’s harder for us to grow. However we’ve slowly realized what we need to do to grow, push as much digital ticket sales as possible that makes it easier for us to maneuver. But past that the whole thing has been a learning experience. We had a successful event back in May, it was incredible the line went around the entire Kensington Olympia while another show was going on. Moving further out the city was another risk that we had to take. At each step, we evaluate if we’re going to be more successful or less successful. There’s a lot of differences to anticipate over here simply because we know the US more and the more we travel around the world we realize it’s the less that we actually know how things work.
What do you think it is about the Sneakercon brand that makes it so well received outside of the US?
The good thing is that we’ve been around for a very long time, we started back in 2009. We care a lot about our audience, but sometimes they might be rude to us and we might have to yell back, but for the most part we care about how much fun that these guys have when they come here we want to make sure that they come in happy and leave happy and 99 percent of the people do. Whether you’ve come to check things out, see people, buy a pair of shoes sell a pair of shoes for the most part we’ve given them a venue to where they can really be a part of the community.
Has the response in your opinion been strong enough to bring you back to the UK?
Absolutely, I think this is still an amazing show for us. London was our first international expansion city. I think just because it’s an English speaking country it was a lot easier for us to go in rather than say an Asian country or the other European countries like France or Germany which we are doing next week. We’ll really be aiming to learn from those experiences to make sure that we’re speaking the right language not just orally, but culturally.
What’re the future plans for Sneakercon as far as growth and expansion?
As far as the US we’re going to do bigger shows, multi-days, offering a lot more programming, a little more than vendors buying and selling shoes. You can start to see here at Crep Protect they brought together some of the biggest YouTubers here like Just Sul, Quias etc. So there’s a lot of nontraditional programming. Traditionally you would have celebrities and basketball players, here we have Youtubers. It’s very different and well accepted by the community. In the future, we’ll see if we can do a basketball game here with Youtubers and not just celebrities. Can we do a panel discussion? Can we do more then what we have here today? I think it will take time to build that audience through word of mouth and visibility in each country.
As far as tastes and attitudes between the UK and US audiences are there many similarities in your opinion?
Honestly, I think everything the UK has been pretty much similar to our US cities everyone here is fashion forward, they’re all wearing Supreme and the hot sneakers. You know surprisingly today, I saw a lot of Off White and a lot of Adidas as well as a really big mixture of things. The kids here look no different to the kids in the US, although I would say the UK audience is a little older than our audience back in the states, where they’re more on the college-age whereas ours are more on the high school age.
Whats your top five releases of 2017?
That’s impossible! I told myself that I was not going to buy any sneakers this year and I’ve added about two hundred pairs to my collection. The Off White collaboration, Pharrell NMD’s and some the Air Max’s this year have been good but again for me its impossible to keep it to a top five. There have been some amazing shoes, PUMA has put out a few good releases, Asics just put up some pictures of the Moncler collection that looks amazing. Adidas is killing it right now, Nike, also Converse with their Tyler collab. Jordan brand has some craziness. It’s been a crazy year, I think I would have to make it a top fifty rather than a top five!
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