The impact of COVID-19 has been felt across the entire global economy, and that includes niche industries like streetwear. Not only did brands such as Nike and Supreme have to temporarily close stores during the peak of the pandemic, but since reopening they've had to implement health measures to keep shoppers safe from the virus — including taking their temperatures, providing hand sanitizer, and only letting a certain number of them in at once. Others have moved to hosting sneaker drops entirely online, through lottery-based systems on Instagram (or email) that give customers a chance to buy sought-after pairs without having to set foot in a retail space. This is where Sole Retriever comes in.
Going 2.0 — Relaunched in December 2019, months before the novel coronavirus basically shut down the world of commerce, the website is a hub for sneakerheads and hypebeasts to easily keep up with all the raffles happening around the globe for pairs they're interested in. With sometimes dozens of launches happening in any given week, it can become quite difficult to stay on top of every raffle or even know when a certain shoe is dropping, and that's a problem Sole Retriever is looking to solve. While there are other sites offering a similar service, Sole Retriever hopes to differentiate itself from the pack with a user experience that's simple, intuitive, and organized.
For example, once you create an account you can mark raffles you've entered as "done," as well as narrow them down by country — that's a small but key detail since certain shops only let people from specific countries enter their lotteries. There are also other useful filters like "Type," which show you if retailers are choosing winners in-store, online, in-app, or via social media, and whether they'll ship the shoe to you or you'll have to pick it up from them. When you click to open a raffle, Sole Retriever instantly redirects you to the shop's dedicated site, where you can enter your personal information including name, address, and credit card information, though those details vary by lottery host.
Aside from the main purpose of the site, which is to be a one-stop-shop for you to increase your chances at getting the pairs you so desire, Sole Retriever has features such as a "Heat Check" that shows you just how hyped the sneaker you're trying to get is — whether that's a color-changing Nike SB Dunk Low or a vegan silhouette from Adidas and Sean Wotherspoon. Naturally, with the resale market playing such a major role in the sneaker game nowadays, you'll find quick links to StockX in case you're interested in seeing how much a sneaker is worth on the app and you want to either sell or buy it on there... depending on how lucky (or not) you get from your raffle entries.
Adapting to the hype — At a time when sneaker drops have turned into such a mess, due to the rise of bots and with the spread of COVID-19 being such a concern, retailers are finding ways to get creative with their releases, and that presents an opportunity for sites like Sole Retriever. One of the co-owners of the site, who asked Input to refer to him as "Dave" as he wished to keep his real identity private, said that since Sole Retriever relaunched earlier this year under new ownership it has "grown to serve hundreds of thousands of users each month." That's no small feat for service that's relatively young, and it's yet another example of the appetite from sneakerheads and how their shopping habits continue to evolve, for better or worse.
Right now, Sole Retriever monitors over 600 stores and retailers for raffles, aka "draws," and Dave said it's constantly adding more. He added that, at some point next year, the plan is to release a mobile app that will give sneakerheads access to Sole Retriever's best features natively on their iOS or Android devices — with a few surprises to boot. "We're very engaged in the community and whenever we get a suggestion or some sort of feedback, we're always open to adding new things," said Dave. "Because the more value people find in the site, and the better the experience we can offer to the consumer, the more they'll come to us."