Black Friday is cemented in American minds as the holiday of unparalleled bargains, so expansive that many shoppers assume it’s the best time to buy anything and everything.
As it turns out, that’s far from true with sneakers — but retailers don’t want you to know that. A recent study from sneaker expert Danny McLoughlin at RunRepeat.com found that just 1 percent of sneakers are cheapest on Black Friday. As for the other 99 percent, they’ve been marked up nearly $30, on average.
The Washington Post spoke with McLoughlin about sneaker culture, the scam of Black Friday sneaker pricing and when the real sneaker deals abound.
Question: Why did you become a sneaker expert?
Answer: I’ve always liked shoes. In the U.K., we have a great soccer culture, and part of that is, you go to the soccer games with your friends and wear a particular style of sneakers. Then I started to travel a bit and watched a lot of basketball as well; I just thought the whole sneaker culture in basketball was very cool. I just kind of fell in love with it. I’ve got hundreds of pairs lying around.
Q: For those who don’t know, what is the sneaker-enthusiast market like?
A: When a new sneaker is released, you can think of it like concert tickets — there’s a scramble to get it before it sells out, and once it sells out, there’s people buying the sneakers in bulk as a business and then reselling them to people who will wear them or keep them in their collection. Some people don’t wear them, funnily enough. There’s people making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year buying limited-edition sneakers and reselling them.
Q: Can you walk us through what RunRepeat does and how the study came about?
A: You can think of our website as a comparison website for sneakers, like Kayak is for flights. We’ve got all the prices for different sneakers, and we also fill in reviews for sneaker blogs; we’ll feature their reviews on our blog. We keep track of the cheapest price for each sneaker every single day, and we’ve got about 4,000 sneakers in the database. For each of those, we track the cheapest price, with some going back as far as 720 days. We update as new sneakers and prices are released. That’s the data I’ve been using.
In the run-up to Black Friday, I thought I’d just take a look and see what happens with sneaker prices around this time. I was kind of programmed to believe prices would go down on Black Friday. I thought prices would be cheaper and you’d get sneakers for, like, 60 percent off, but after a short analysis, it looked like prices were going up, and I decided to take a closer look.
Q: What was your methodology for breaking down the prices?
A: We ran a query on the database that literally took the cheapest price of each shoe in each month (across multiple years) and told us the average price of shoes when sold in that month. So it’s just a simple average, but it’s across 4,024 shoes and 30/31 days per month or 60/62 days when we have two years worth of data. So it ends up being a huge sample size.
Q: So what actually happens with pricing closer to Black Friday?
A: What I think is happening is that people don’t look at the price, they just assume they’re going to be cheaper because it’s Black Friday, and retailers know that people have the assumption that prices are cheaper on Black Friday, and they take advantage of that. They know people think they’re getting a cheaper price, and they add a little on top of that.
Around two months before Black Friday, prices slowly start to creep up. In the graph you can see it’s very steady; it’s almost a straight line going up. The average price around the start of September was around $59, and by Black Friday, it’s around $70. It’s a pretty substantial change, around 17 percent increase.
Q: Are a lot of sneakers still purchased on Black Friday despite the price hikes?
A: Oh yes. We saw our traffic on our site go up around 44 percent on Black Friday, compared to a normal day.
Q: So when is it actually the cheapest time to buy sneakers?
A: In May is when they are the cheapest. My thinking would be that it’s because it’s kind of coming out of the winter and people are starting to pick up and run again. March is the most expensive month, followed by November, surprisingly. From March, that’s when it starts to turn into spring, so it’s true that’s when most people will be buying their shoes.
Want to see the rest of McLoughlin’s findings? Check out his study, “Black Friday is a scam — 99 percent of all sneakers are cheaper on another day,” at RunRepeat.com