“Life starts at the foot,” said Garry Thaniel, eBay’s first general manager of sneakers and streetwear and a self-proclaimed sneakerhead.
Thaniel grew up in East Baltimore, where — according to him — what you wore spoke volumes.
“We didn’t grow up with a lot, but looking good was important,” he told The Cool Down. “Apparel was your equity.”
So much so that he got his first job at 15 just so he could afford the latest footwear craze at the time: Air Jordan Concord 11s.
“I remember the first time I saw Michael Jordan with them on — patent leather on sneakers!” Thaniel recalled. “I wore them to prom with my tuxedo.”
Fast forward to today — Thaniel is now living his dream as the first general manager of sneakers and streetwear for eBay, building the secondhand marketplace as a go-to destination for sneakerheads looking to score a deal and a piece of history.
Over the decades, sneaker fandom has exploded into mainstream mania — the U.S. retail sneaker market was worth nearly $24 billion in 2022. And the secondhand sneaker market was valued at $2 billion in 2019.
While there are a growing number of marketplaces to shop secondhand sneakers, Thaniel credits eBay with leading the way.
“eBay is and has always been the OG platform for sneakerheads,” he told The Cool Down. “‘I found this on eBay’ is a saying in the community.”
Thaniel says a pair of sneakers is sold every four seconds on the platform.
“I believe we have the greatest breadth and depth of inventory out there,” he shared.
eBay won’t disclose figures specific to its sneaker inventory, but the platform certainly owns a substantial share of the market — Thaniel noted four million sneakers have been authenticated by eBay since 2000.
While offering a good deal is important, “shoppers can find something that feels brand-new for a fraction of the price.” Thaniel said consumer trust in eBay is what helps them grow their shopper base.
“My grandest ambition is to make eBay the most trusted and inclusive sneaker platform,” he explained.
To that end, eBay acquired a sneaker authentication business in 2021, the same year it launched the ability for shoppers to interact with a 360-degree view of select sneakers before purchasing.
“If sneakerheads don’t trust you, they won’t rock with you,” Thaniel explained.
eBay boasts what Thaniel calls “the greatest collection of original 1985 Air Jordan 1s ever assembled,” which the company showcased at a pop-up shop in Chicago called The ’85 Shop.
The store offered the original sneaker in every colorway, including vintage, game-worn pairs, as well as other classic ’80s sneakers like the Puma Clyde and Adidas Forum High. The shop also included several sneakers used in the production of the new movie AIR, provided by eBay seller and sneaker historian, ShoeZeum.
“1985 was such an important year for sneakers, with the release of the Air Jordan 1s. There is no other sneaker in history more iconic in terms of longevity and silhouettes that have stood the test of time,” Thaniel said.
Shoppers seem to agree: In 2022, sneakerheads searched eBay for Air Jordan 1s over 100,000 times a day.
Thaniel plans to leverage community-building and storytelling as a way to expand eBay’s dominance in sneakers.
“Every great sneaker comes with a great story,” he said.
So what can future shoppers and sellers expect from the platform?
“We will be showing up in people’s communities and creating experiences only eBay can,” said Thaniel. He hopes his 16-week-old daughter will be among them — he has already bought her 28 pairs of sneakers.
“She’ll be good until she’s six years old,” he said.
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