Nike’s International Shipping Ban on Retailers Means Trouble for “Sneakerheads”

By Imani Deas, Associate Editor 

YOU GOT EM!— Every sneakerheads favorite thing to see. If you are familiar with the Nike brand or the Nike SNKRS app, then you know that “you got em” means that you just secured the sneakers you’ve been dying to get your hands on, or better yet your feet in. What is a sneakerhead, you might ask? A sneakerhead is an individual who collects limited, rare, original, or flat out exclusive sneakers.

The collection usually consists of Nike Air Jordan’s but is not limited to such category. Moreover, a sneakerhead has a passion and knowledge of specific sneakers. Those who purchase limited or rare sneakers for clout are considered hype beasts. Hype beasts are typically individuals who do not have any knowledge about the sneaker or its significance. They simply purchase the sneaker in order to be a part of the latest fashion trends. Throughout the 2010s, the sneaker culture exploded from exclusive collectors to the mainstream masses. As a result, uniformity became a problem amongst wearers and the mainstream attraction of exclusive footwear catered to a much more global market.

Following the mainstream market, a secondary market was created. The secondary market also known as the resale business, flourished into a billion-dollar business. Furthermore, the resale arena produced more opportunities for consumers and more product overall. Through the sneaker resale company, people frequently buy and sell footwear for thousands of dollars. This precious business allows certain resellers to determine legitimate sneakers from fake ones. Quality and legitimacy are critical for resellers and has helped to authenticate the secondary market.

However, starting this year Nike’s reported retailer ban on international shipping will significantly affect sneaker culture. Nike believes that reselling takes a large amount of power away from brands to control demand and create the buildup leading up to a sneaker release. As a result of this ban, Nike accounts will not be able to send products to buyers in other countries.

If a retailer is caught shipping or selling shoes internationally, they could lose their Nike account. Without a Nike account means that the retailer would no longer have access to releases, and they would not be able to secure any future releases. The international reselling business has allowed many hype beasts to thrive, while making it difficult for true sneakerheads to claim exclusive sneaker deals. This could be a detrimental blow to the glorious sneaker culture.

The possibility of a ban leaves sneakerheads questioning, how will it affect the sneaker culture moving forward? Ultimately, Nike wants to strengthen their business model and have more control of the market, especially surrounding more popular sneakers. Fundamentally, reselling gives everyone access to sneaker releases, whether they are stateside or internationally based. On a practical level, this ban will allow for the reemergence of exclusivity. Furthermore, the ban would enable sneakerheads to obtain limited editions with more ease because the releases will be more regionally based. However, a drawback to the regional release would be that the individual may need to live in a major city to access specific sneakers.

Additionally, certain sneakers are tied specific cities. Those sneakers will only release in that city as a surprise release. In those instances, sneakerheads know that their location settings must be turned on, on their mobile devices so that they can receive the exact location in the city where the sneaker “drop” (also known as pick-up) will occur. For example, the “What the NYC” Air Force 1 will only release in New York. Normally, hype beasts buy the popular sneaker online or in-store and can resell it internationally above retail price. That purchase and resell then undercuts against the individual who actually wants the sneaker for themselves.

The new ban will force those who want that particular Air Force 1 to be in New York at the time of the release. Those who live in England or Paris will miss out. More specifically, the international ban means that resale prices will substantially increase. Prior to this ban, those in search of an exclusive European exclusive Air Max could purchase them from other online retailers, such as StockX or JDsports. Due to the timing of the release location, StockX becomes the customer’s ONLY option. Normally, StockX allows the market to set the resale value of exclusive sneakers. Being that StockX would be the customers the only outlet, the resale value of the sneaker would inevitably surpass whatever the market may set for the base resale price. That value would depend on the particular sneaker, simply due to its demand and exclusivity.

While this noteworthy ban on international shipping may be helpful for Nike, it has the potential to crush the retailer market, causing some to go out of business. Similarly, this marketing tactic could backfire, and not have a major “chilling” effect on consumers and retailers as Nike planned. Nike’s goal to influence more online shoppers to their SNKRS App, is it worth the cost of shrinking a billion-dollar market? Despite the move Nike made, sneakerheads and resellers alike will have to wait and see what is next for the sneaker culture.


Steve Cameron, A Pair of Air Jordans can Resell for up to $2000. Here’s why these iconic Nike sneakers are so expensive, BUSINESS INSIDER (Jan. 27, 2020) available at

Can I Ship My Order Internationally?, NIKE (Jan. 27, 2020) available at

Fabian Gorsler, How Will Nike’s New International Shipping Policy Affect Independent Retailers, HIGHSNOBIETY (Jan. 13, 2020) available at

Nicolaus Li, Copped Hyped Kicks May Get Harder: Nike Reminds Retailers Not to Ship Internationally, HYPEBEAST (Jan. 26, 2020) available at

Ian Stonebrook, How Nike’s Reported Retailer Ban on International Shipping Affects Sneaker Culture, NICEKICKS (Jan. 27, 2020) available at

Cam Wolf, How a Single Pair of Sneakers Explains the Booming Billion-Dollar Sneaker Resale Industry, GQ (Jan. 28, 2020) available at

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