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Have you ever bought a designer sneaker for a large amount of money, only to later realize you were handed a replica, maybe even the lowest grade available? It’s not just you; many Nigerians have been and continue to go down that sorry road.
The growing popularity of street fashion and gym life among Nigerians is driving the demand for sneakers, what we sometimes refer to as canvas or running shoes. Coincidentally, that has birthed a large market with lots of opportunities.
Thanks to e-commerce, social media, and affordable internet, many people have taken the initiative to start their own fashion retail outfits, importing and selling all kinds of apparels and shoes, and have it delivered to the door mouth of their customers.
However, in countries like Nigeria where most imports fail to go through standardization checks, and most people seek affordability first (due to poverty and the growing cost of living), it is almost justifiable, and seamless to market fake/replica goods.
From Fila, to Puma, to Adidas, to Nike, Nigerians are going crazy over these comfortable designer casual footwears– Gen Z especially. Along with Millennials, Gen Z’s dominate Nigeria’s pop demography, and they love these expensive casual fashion commodities. However, a large chunk of their investments goes to the purchase of fake/replica products.
How are the sneakers fake?
Designer sneakers typically range from (excluding cost of shipping from overseas) 120 USD (N50,400) to thousands of dollars on retail stores such as Farfetch, eBay, Amazon, BestBuy, StockX, and branded stores. Different sneakers and different version of sneakers have varying costs, but across many online fashion vendors, sneakers have a flat rate of 25,000 NGN to 50 NGN.
The Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro is a good example of a shoe with different models. The original Jordans typically start selling from 180 USD (N81,000). Meanwhile these highly coveted sneakers inspired by legendary NBA player Michael Jordan, sell for an average of N35,000 in Nigeria.
They’re replicas, but only highly sneaker savvy Nigerians know and can tell the difference between fake and original sneakers. The replicas are that good.
How to spot fake/replica sneakers
There are many ways to spot replica sneakers. The easiest step is to visit the website or storefront of the original footwear manufacturer and compare the prices. If after converting, and the price offered for the same sneaker on the manufacturer’s page is significantly higher than that advertised by your online vendor, run. It is simply fake.
Perhaps you do not buy online; maybe you visit outlets to get your shoes. A thorough inspection of the labelling, packaging, and material will distinguish the original from the fake. The pictures below depict some of the size and positional differences in logos and logos placement, and how they can be used to differentiate fake from original.
In this case, it helps to be knowledgeable about the sneaker you’re going to purchase. One good way to to do this is: browsing the product on the manufacturer’s website, including taking note of all the design features and reading about the technology used to manufacture the footwear.
This ensures that you’re able to spot, at least, one anomaly that tells you you’re dealing with a fake or replica version.
How we found out most Nigerian vendors sell fake sneakers
I conducted an experiment using 10 online brand-new sneaker retailing stores in Nigeria- all 10 of them had pages on Instagram. I messaged them, requesting for the ‘Original’ Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro SE 95 Neon. 9 of them returned positive feedback, confirming the shoe was in stock.
Two sent pictures of it; none of the pictures were live photographs- both had been either downloaded or sent by other people. I went further to request for information on the asking price and, only 8 of the contacted vendors responded. The highest quoted price was N40,000 which is about 80 USD if you apply a USD to NGN exchange rate of 1 USD: N500.
Notwithstanding, knowing that the shoes they offered were likely to be fakes/replicas, we asked them to confirm specifically that they were selling the original shoes. Out of the 8 who had sent quotes, only 4 responded; three were adamant they were selling me authentic Jordan 4s. Only one retailer opened up on the products being replicas.
The thing is, the Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro SE 95 Neon is one of the cheapest Jordans to ever hit the streets. But even at that, it doesn’t sell below 250 USD on StockX for instance for an authentic brand-new pair. That’s about N125,500 when applying the same conversion rate we applied earlier, and that doesn’t include shipping and tax. Yet, there are Jordan’s more expensive than the SE Neon selling for the same average prices on Nigerian retail stores.
My research was complete, so I didn’t bother paying to have the shoes delivered for further investigation; none of the 10 vendors had original shoes.
Why fake sneakers dominate the market
The problem is that while Nigerians have rapidly come to appreciate these high-end casual shoes, the designers do not consider the country a good market for their products yet, given the high-income imbalance. Hence, they have no legitimate or recognised retailers in the country. Nike, for instance, does not have a single outlet in Nigeria (as at the time of this publication). New Balance and Adidas have a few, but they’re not enough to meet the rapidly growing demands of sneakers.
How to escape buying fake/replica sneakers
Of course, if you don’t run on a lean budget like the average Nigerian, you can have your shoes shipped from authentic outlets overseas, not minding the cost. But if you’re often shopping on a budget, the best thing is to do is: go for cheaper designer sneakers like New Balance, who have their original outlets in Lagos and other renowned malls across the country. Another solution is to shop fairly used sneakers or patronise thrift stores. Yaba, Lagos, is popular market for used clothing and shoes.
There’s always a special feeling attached to rocking authentic designer wears, and the products. Some of them even become more fashionable over time even, depending on how well they’re maintained. Thrift stores usually sell authentic stuff and if you’re lucky to land first grade items, you’d be left feeling like you landed a jackpot.
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