Ep. 49: China’s Gen-Z and its newest poison: sneakers

In episode 49 of TechBuzz China, co-hosts Ying-Ying Lu and Rui Ma continue their exploration of the converging trends between the U.S. and China’s ecommerce sectors, this week covering the topic of the resale market for sneakers and streetwear. Notably, entrepreneurs in the U.S. and in China, such as the founders of smash-hit sneaker site Pozion, seem to have discovered this space at roughly the same time. Perhaps, our co-hosts muse, due to the tech-savvy nature of the Gen-Z demographic, differences across the two countries are far less than we think. Globally, this and other ecommerce platforms thus far have catered only to women; Poizon and other brands are showing the way to a category in which men are the primary consumers.

Rui and Ying-Ying begin by explaining the impetus for this episode: the fact that two unicorns of roughly the same valuation, the same business (selling sneakers and other streetwear to urban youth), and the same lead investor (DST) were born in this space this year. One was the aforementioned Poizon, which is based in Shanghai and was spun off from Hupu, China’s leading sports news and community website. The other sneaker unicorn, called StockX, was birthed in Detroit in June.

Listen to find out: What are some of the factors behind this “coincidence”? What is behind the growth of China’s athletic footwear market? How do most streetwear brands market and distribute their products today, and how does this lead to some items selling at a (at times massive) premium? How are these market trends tied to the rise of the NBA and the CBA in China? How do Poizon’s founders enter and drive the story, and in what ways is the company linked to entities such as Bytedance and China’s Most Eligible Bachelor? What is interesting about the stories of other global sneaker-sellers such as Stadium Goods, which expanded almost immediately into China and only later into Europe? What are the challenges that these sites face, including but not limited to a fake rate of at least 1 percent?

As always, you can find these stories and more at pandaily.com. If you enjoy our content, please do let us know by leaving us an iTunes review, liking our Facebook page, and tweeting at us at @techbuzzchina! Thank you also to our listeners over at our partner, dealstreetasia.com.

We are grateful for our supportive and talented producers, Shaw Wan and Kaiser Kuo, and for our intern, Wang Menglu. Thank you!

Listeners who are interested in visiting China should check out Pandaily’s one-week immersion into China’s tech scene, taking place on October 13-19, 2019. Applications will be available soon on pandaily.com. This trip is not to be confused with TechBuzz China’s inaugural invite-only China Investor Trip for public market investors, taking place the following week on October 7–13.

Additionally, Bay Area listeners may come out to join TechBuzz co-host Rui Ma, in dialogue with Matt Sheehan at the launch of his new book, The Transpacific Experiment: How China and California Collaborate and Compete for Our Future. The event will take place on the evening of Tuesday, August 13, at the Asia Society, and you should definitely pre-order Matt’s book on Amazon.


[00:00] R: Hey everyone, I hope you enjoyed our last episode on 3 Squirrels, which showcased one of China’s largest snack brands.  And it was unique in that the brand was built entirely online, although like other digital brands globally, it’s experimenting with and expanding its offline presence.

Y: We called it a D2C brand, short for direct-to-consumer, but as sharp-eared Techbuzzers pointed out, that’s not quite accurate, because it actually built its business on top of Alibaba’s Tmall, and really gamed the heck out of Single’s Day in particular. D2C brands, strictly speaking, should have direct access to their customers, not through another platform.

R: Although we do have to add that the way Tmall operates is really more like true branded virtual storefronts, so at least for the consumer, the experience is pretty comparable to going to a separate, branded domain, like a warbyparker.com, to use an example from our last episode.  Nonetheless, we agree it would have been more accurate to call 3 Squirrels a Tmall brand, which is how it’s referred to in Chinese, a 淘品牌,  so we do stand corrected.

Y: I hope you’re not tired of exploring the converging trends between US and China e-commerce though, because that’s also the topic of today’s episode.  Only we are covering something much cooler than nuts and snacks.

[1:27] R: That’s right, today’s episode is on sneakers and streetwear.  Specifically, it’s on the secondhand or resale market for these items, which has birthed two unicorns so far this year, and a third one that is well on its way.  

Y: What’s really fun about this particular business is that entrepreneurs in the US and China seem to have roughly discovered this space at the same time.

R: Yeah, it’s almost like they’re leading identical but parallel lives across the ocean.  There are still differences, of course, but maybe because of the population they’re targeting — tech savvy Gen Z’ers — maybe for this age group, the differences across the two countries seem to be far less than we think.

Y: Oh, far less. And we’ll learn about one company that knew that very early on and incorporated it into their business strategy from the very beginning. There were so many things we learned in the course of researching this episode that I had no idea about before.

R: Me too! I thought I kinda knew fashion, but as it turns out, 我 OUT 啦。Wait, do people even say that anymore? I am so ignorant of what’s cool these days. I should just shut up.

[3:00] R: Hi everyone! We are TechBuzz China by Pandaily, powered by the Sinica Podcast Network!

Y: We are a biweekly podcast focused on giving you a peek into what’s buzzing within the tech community in China.    

R: We uncover and contextualize unique insights, perspectives and takeaways on headline tech news that don’t always make it into English language coverage. So you can be smarter about the world of China tech. TechBuzz China is a part of Pandaily.com, an English language site that tells you “everything about China’s innovation.” I’m one of your two co-hosts, Rui Ma.

Y: And I’m your other co-host, Ying-Ying Lu. We’d like to acknowledge our partners DealStreetAsia and SupChina, creator of the Sinica Podcast Network! In addition to TechBuzz, you can also find Sinica which covers current affairs, NuVoices and Ta for Ta on women, the business-oriented ChinaEconTalk, and the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief from China’s leading business magazine.  

[3:57] R: If you were ever interested in visiting China and simply didn’t know where to begin, Pandaily is organizing a one-week immersion into China’s tech scene from October 13th to October 19th. Applications will be available soon, so please check out pandaily.com or email contact@pandaily.com for more information.
Y: Not to be confused with Pandaily’s trip, here at TechBuzz, we are also going to be in Beijing and Shanghai the week of October 7-13, 2019, right after Golden Week, for our inaugural invite-only TechBuzz China Investor Trip for public market investors. So if you’re around then, do please tune in as we finalize where we will be holding meetups. Come and have a beer on us!

R: Finally, as always, if you enjoyed listening to our podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes or whatever other platform you use.  We are so close to hitting our 100 ratings target by the way — help us get to three digits, we really appreciate it!

[5:08] R: Today’s episode is brought to you by The Transpacific Experiment: How China and California Collaborate and Compete for Our Future, a new book out on August 13th by Matt Sheehan, a former journalist in China and current non-resident fellow at the Paulson Institute’s think tank, MacroPolo.  Matt is one of the smartest and most thoughtful voices on US-China topics and this book is going to tell you things you never knew about how intertwined China and California are, and how that’s playing out in people’s lives here on the ground, in tech, entertainment, real estate, and other key industries.  If you’re in the Bay Area, see if you can make our Tuesday, August 13th evening event with the Asia Society.  If you can’t, you’ll definitely want to pre-order this book on Amazon.  Go to our transcript at pandaily.com for links to the event or to order the book, or follow Matt on Twitter at @mattsheehan88! OK, as we’ve already explained, today’s episode is on sneakers.  Well a little more broad than sneakers, because pretty much all these players have moved into streetwear generally.

Y: The impetus for doing this episode though, was, as we said, the birth of two unicorns in this space this year.  One at the end of April, in Shanghai, China, by a company called 毒 in Chinese, which means “poison.” Its English name is poizon, spelled with a z.

R: The other sneaker unicorn was birthed just two months later in June. It’s a company in Detroit called StockX.  Very interestingly, both of these companies share a common lead investor — DST, the Yuri Milner-led late stage venture fund.

Y: That’s pretty unique right? Roughly the same business reaching the same valuation at nearly the same time with the same investor. In fact, it almost sounds too coincidental to be true.

[7:06] R: But it’s true, and why are sneakers, of all things, such a hot business right now?  Some of you cool kids might know the answer already, but for those of us who aren’t so avant garde like myself, well, I think it’s helpful to start off with an overview of the streetwear industry.

Y: What do we mean by streetwear? Basically, it’s casual clothing that is closely affiliated with urban youth, especially those in the skating and surfing subcultures, but also including hip hop, punk, and other musical identities too.  These days, streetwear, or at least the streetwear that we are interested in, is highly stylized and can be very expensive.  

R: Yup, haute couture was first just a far-off influence but has now become more and more integrated with streetwear.  Some streetwear brands are legitimate luxury brands now.  One of the most successful is Supreme. I’m sure you’ve seen its logo everywhere. It’s got this red box logo with large white italicized letters that spell out the word “Supreme.”

Y: Supreme really defined how most streetwear brands now market and distribute their products.  They embraced and systematized the concept of the limited product “drop.”  Basically what happens is that a very limited number of pieces is released every Thursday at 11am in its stores around the world, and a mostly male, mostly teenage crowd gathers outside to buy the pieces that they will then immediately post to social media.

[8:43] R: All their friends will then FOMO like crazy, but won’t be able to just go into the store and get the items they want, because remember, the quantities are highly limited.  Instead, they’ll have to go on eBay or something and buy it secondhand.  And because there’ll be more demand than supply, often times the items are sold at a premium.

Y: Depending on how scarce the item is, sometimes the premium can be very high. How high you ask? Well, consider the hottest shoe this past quarter for men, which was the Adidas YEEZY Boost 350 V2.  Current secondary market price premium? At least 500%.

R: An artificially constrained supply and fanatical demand … yup those are the market dynamics that shape this business.  And more and more brands have gotten this to work, so it’s not going away any time soon. Some are even proclaiming that sneaker culture has infiltrated Paris Fashion Week, one of the snobbiest events around.

Y: It could very well be true. But how does this play out in China specifically? Well, let’s look at some numbers. China’s athletic footwear market — not secondhand, but total — is about $10Bn.  Like almost everything else, China is the world’s second largest market, compared to the No.1 market, the US at $17Bn projected for 2018.  And the growth rates are really impressive.

[10:17] R: Yeah, Adidas’ China sales grew 16% earlier this year, and rival Nike grew almost 20% to $1.6Bn, that accounts for 17% of the company’s total revenues, and almost half of what it made in North America. Streetwear brands in China had growth of 62% from 2015 to 2017, significantly faster — actually almost quadruple actually — than those in other countries.  

Y: And the secondhand sneaker market alone in China?  Well, it is already a $6Bn market globally, and China is estimated at $1Bn today.  OK, just one billion.  But that number is bound to grow, and probably really quickly.  In addition to the supply and demand dynamics of streetwear brands — China also has two things going for it that you might not have been fully aware of, one is its overwhelming strength in ecommerce, and the other is the explosive popularity of sports — especially basketball.

R: OK, so we have covered China ecommerce a lot on TechBuzz, but still, I was really surprised to learn of this case study from Stadium Goods.  For those of you unfamiliar with Stadium Goods, it is also a sneaker and streetwear marketplace, but it was bought by the online luxury platform Farfetch for $250mm last December. Rationale for the acquisition? Sneakers are outstripping other categories in terms of growth on Farfetch and they saw lots of synergies in working together.

Y: Even if you have heard of both companies, you probably didn’t know that both had a China strategy.  Farfetch, which has been around since 2007 and is now publicly listed, accepted pre-IPO investment from JD.com.  That’s not too weird.  Stadium Goods, however, had entering China as part of their strategy from day 1.

[12:17] R: Yup.  Within three months of launching, they had begun preparations for their Tmall store.  And just like we showcased with other consumer brands on Techbuzz, especially for the last episode on 3 Squirrels, Alibaba’s Singles Day Shopping Festival in 2016 proved to be a great accelerant for their business. Amazingly, at the time of its acquisition by Farfetch, Stadium Goods was getting almost 20% of its sales from China.  

Y: What I find so interesting about this story is that for this US based fashion company selling sneakers, of all things, they expanded first and pretty much immediately to China, and then, only after succeeding in this market, did they go to Europe.  Who knew that there was a better market for sneakerheads in China than in Europe?

R: Well, that’s the thing, it’s not necessarily that there are more sneakerheads in China, but what we can be sure of is that the Chinese consumer is more open to shopping online.  At least part of that is because there is such well-built infrastructure in place, thanks in no small part to Jack Ma. The company emarketer is forecasting a 30% growth rate for Chinese e-commerce this year and projecting that over a third of all Chinese retail will be online.  

Y: That’s pretty wild. In comparison, by the way, the US is somewhere between 10 and 11%.  I remember a time a few years ago, maybe closer to a decade ago actually, when both markets were at about the same penetration for e-commerce.  But China has pulled far and away.  In terms of global e-commerce, China is expected to account for 56% of the world’s online retail sales this year.  

[14:01] R: Exactly. So if you are selling goods digitally … even if they are high-end sneakers and streetwear, not exactly what you’d associate with the average Chinese person, you should probably still look into selling into the country because, well, that’s where the most online buyers and online spending are happening.

Y: And soon, too, you might want to do that even if you’re not selling exclusively online.  Because an important tipping point is coming. China is expected to exceed the US and land at $5.6Tr for largest retail market in the world this year.  On a per capita basis, the US is still far ahead, but in aggregate? China is going to be in the lead.

R: OK, so that’s why you want to be in China regardless of what you’re selling.  But let me also explain to you why sports-inspired streetwear, specifically basketball-inspired clothing, has such a big market in China.  It’s simple really, the NBA, unlike many of the other major global sports leagues, came to China early in 2008, set up a very serious joint venture, and just crushed everyone else.

Y: It’s estimated that 300mm people in China play basketball.  Those who play regularly though … probably only tens of millions max.  But the organization has done a tremendous job winning Chinese fans, despite the fact that soccer is actually the country’s most-played sport.       

R: In 2017, the NBA had 2.9bn video views of its playoff games. For a while now, it’s been the most followed sports league on Chinese social media, and by a large margin too.  It’s 7 times more discussed and 5 times more followed than the top 3 most popular European soccer leagues … combined.  This is why pretty much every big NBA star has begun or is contemplating a social media strategy and have active sponsorships in China. Kobe, for example, has been going to China practically every summer since 1998, and he has millions of rabid fans in China — just google “crazy Chinese Kobe fans” for stories.  

[17:01] Y: So the lesson here is that while China has a very small, pretty much negligible skater, surfer, or hip hop culture, at least in comparison to the US, which is where streetwear brands was born out of, the national obsession with basketball has really made up for all of that.  And of course, when it comes to sneakers in particular, love and appreciation for basketball is one of the primary drivers of this market.

R: Which brings us to our next topic.  You must be wondering, Rui and Ying-ying have been going on a while now about the market, but have yet to actually talk about the company itself! Well, this is the perfect segway, because it is a duo of rabid Chinese NBA fans that brought you the topic of today’s episode, Poizon.

Y: You see, Poizon is actually a spinoff from 虎扑 Hupu, China’s leading sports news and community website.  It was started by two gentlemen, one named 程杭 Shawn Cheng, who is still the CEO today, and the other named Yang Bing 杨冰, who continues to serve as its President. Shawn was a PhD student at Northwestern University in Chicago and Yang Bing was still an undergraduate in China when they both decided that the disparity between the English and Chinese language coverage of their favorite sport — basketball — was unacceptable.  So in late 2003 early 2004, they started a website called Hoopchina.com.

[18:33] R: I realized when I was researching this episode that Hupu 虎扑 is just a transliteration of Hoop.  I mean, I always thought it was a weird name for a sports website … “tiger pounce”??  Now, hoop … that makes a lot of sense.

Y: Anyway, these two boys ran this site in their spare time.  Yang Bing would say later that his schedule was so erratic and he was online so much, before work, and well past midnight into the wee hours of the morning — which was not as common fifteen years ago as it is today — that all his classmates thought he was having an online romance.  And when that didn’t stop for several years … well they thought he was having a series of them.

R: Valid suspicion.  But they were making money off of their passion and having the time of their lives.  The business just grew organically and they just continued to run it like their pet project.  In fact, they ran the website for several years and were at a million unique visitors a day before a sports brand advertiser finally said, hey guys, I can’t keep on paying into your personal accounts.  You guys really have to register a company. So in 2007, they finally did that and incorporated as 上海雷傲普, or Shanghai Layup Inc. Get it?

Y: Basketball nerds to the end. Since then though, they’ve expanded into more sports — soccer, F1, and not just the NBA but also the CBA, the Chinese Basketball Association.  Hupu also runs offline fan clubs and sporting events, and even have a little bit of material devoted to other, mostly male, topics such as fitness, cars, esports, and gadgets. There’s even a whole section devoted to talking about relationships, mostly members asking each other — “what would you do if your girlfriend did this or that.”  Like, for example, if she had a lot of tattoos?  

[20:34] R: The Hupu community is remarkably tight-knit, and they call themselves JRs, which is an acronym for 贱人, which translates into something we cannot say on the air but is a colloquialism for a five letter word beginning with “b,” but it also has a secondary, G-rated meaning of 家人, which means “family member.” If you’re wondering why we are emphasizing this aspect of the company’s operations and culture … well it’s because that’s its DNA.  It excels in content and community, and that’s how Poizon got started.

Y: Hupu actually started an ecommerce website called shihuo识货 focused on reselling and group purchases of sneakers and streetwear back in early 2014.  It launched Poizon the year after, in July, for mobile, but as purely a content and community play.  In late 2016, it launched mobile purchases, but effectively it just redirected you to the seller’s Taobao store.  

R: It wasn’t until late 2017 that you could purchase directly through Poizon itself, instead of Taobao, and at the end of 2018, it was officially spun off from Hupu after receiving tens of millions in funding from Banyan, Sequoia and Prometheus Capital. Hupu still owns at least 55% of the company though, according to public records.

Y: Prometheus Capital, by the way, is the family office of Wang Sicong 王思聪, AKA China’s Most Eligible Bachelor, the guy behind now-failed esports livestreaming service Panda.tv, which we covered in episode 43 or Panda TV. If you’ll remember, he’s a super influencer, especially amongst young men, and so his investment into Poizon and continued endorsement also helped the platform grow.

[22:26] R: Right. The typical Poizon customer is a 20-25 year old urban-dwelling male who loves basketball and is well-off financially, meaning that they are usually in a first or second-tier city.  These users are buying anywhere from two to fifteen pairs of sneakers per year at a price point of over $200 per pair, kind of like how many girls consume handbags.

Y: Just how many of these users are there? Well, as of March, apparently active users were around 1.4mm,  and Poizon was ranked the number 1 free app under sports. In the last year, iOS downloads were around 28mm.  

R: In terms of daily downloads, it’s actually sort of on par with Alibaba’s 闲鱼, which is Alibaba’s secondhand goods trading platform, and that is impressive. Poizon may be pushing into more aggressive marketing with the new round of funding, but at least as of now, it’s chiefly relied on word of mouth and content marketing.

Y: Poizon’s business model is C2B2C, which basically means that instead of your typical C2C model, where users are selling directly to each other, Poizon inserts itself in the middle of the transaction as both the broker and the appraiser.  As a broker, it takes a fee from the seller of between 7.5 and 9.5%, which is similar to what StockX charges.  As an appraiser, it charges the buyer a flat fee of 5 RMB or about $0.75.

[24:09] R: Poizon employs 16 verification experts, who have collectively verified nearly 16mm items. That math is pretty aggressive, and even Chinese websites have noted that this means each item only requires 18 seconds of appraisal, and that’s if all the experts are working 24/7 none-stop.  But whatever, that’s how they’ve chosen to “guarantee” that the goods you receive are authentic and not some high-quality fake.  All in all, Poizon’s GMV is expected to be about $1Bn in 2019, triple what was estimated for last year.

Y: By the way, although no sneaker-specific marketplace has gone public, there are precedents for similar business models to reach scale, although the economics are quite different.  One recent IPO and one of Rui’s favorite services, The RealReal, is a secondhand luxury goods marketplace.  

R: I am a huge fan. I’ve probably bought 80% of my clothes in the past few years from TheRealReal.  Anyway, in its prospectus, the company revealed that its 2018 revenues were about $200mm off of $700mm of GMV, a fraction of the $25Bn market globally for used secondhand clothing.  But more importantly, $200mm off of $700mm implies a pretty high take rate.  And indeed, for TheRealReal, commissions can be as high as 45%.  Despite that however, the company is not profitable.

Y: Operational costs are the biggest expense, but marketing is not cheap either.  In comparison, Poizon has been fairly clever its marketing.  Obviously the affiliation with Hupu is huge, but it’s also been pretty smart about creating content in the places where its users are likely to hang out.  In China, this would be the Bytedance properties. It’s got thousands of articles on Toutiao and hundreds of videos on Douyin and millions of followers on each.

[26:10] R: This would help explain, by the way, why in June, Hupu raised the equivalent of about $180mm from Bytedance in exchange for an equity stake of 30%.  The deal was very much strategic in nature, because Tencent has been very aggressive about monopolizing sports content, such as shelling out half a billion dollars for exclusive rights to NBA games.  And as we know, Tencent and Bytedance are sworn enemies.  By investing in Hupu, Bytedance might be able to take over some of the deep relationships that Hupu has developed over the years with various leagues and franchises. Thereby, skipping Tencent.

Y: But honestly, the wild popularity of the NBA, the dominance of ecommerce in China all aside, we would be remiss to not mention just the absolute craziness surrounding sneakers these days in China.  

R: Let’s just re-iterate that buying sneakers is serious business. In the US, people have brutally beat each other up, robbed, or even killed each other — not making any of this up seriously, just Google it — for a coveted pair of shoes.  In fact, the violence was so frequent and outrageous that it was cited as one of the reasons Nike started its own SNKRs app and took to doing digital lotteries for selling its limited edition shoes and this was back in 2015.

Y: The introduction of digital platforms did solve the issue of physical violence but introduced other problems, such as programmed bots, which you can buy for a few hundred dollars, that gave certain users — often resellers — an advantage over other users.  In other instances, the apps and websites simply didn’t work due to overwhelming demand.

[28:00] R: Seriously, before I researched this episode, I never knew this world existed.  I thought I had some sneakerhead friends, but now that I think about it, they are just posers. As far as I know, none have sustained any injuries trying to get their hands on a pair of Air Jordans.

Y: Again, in China it seemed to be a lot less violent, but no matter how hard you tried, the simple fact that demand far outstripped supply meant that you only have a 1 in 6 chance of successfully acquiring a pair of shoes.  And that’s on average. It’s probably a lot lower if it’s one of the more popular or limited models.

R: I mean just how limited can these shoes get? Chinese athleticwear company Anta — the one currently under attack by Muddy Waters for those of you active in the public markets — released a limited edition shoe with Golden State Warriors player Klay Thompson last year.  Guess how big the run was? Only 350 pairs. Com’on … that’s pretty sadistic.

Y: The scarcity is exacerbated by the existence of professional resellers, some of whom have made profits of $200,000 in one year. In China, these guys might pay a few dozen retired folk a few hundred RMB — that’s about $30 or $40 — to stand in line and see if they get lucky on a pair of shoes.  It’s not just that they can make money per pair of shoe that they are lucky enough to buy, but that also the more they buy, the more they can set even higher prices in the entire market and make it seem as if the shoe is even more rare and scarce than it is.  

[29:44] R: Remember in the beginning of the episode we mentioned that Yeezys were selling on the secondhand market for an average premium of 500%? That’s in the US.  Like many other things, take that number and multiply it by a few-fold to get the situation in China. A pair of red-white-and-black Nike AJ1s —  that’s Air Jordan for you non sneakerheads — has soared in market value from less than $250 to $10,000 in secondary market sales.  That’s an increase of 45x in about two years.  No wonder a popular saying in China these days is 炒房不如炒股,炒股不如炒鞋 — which means, “flipping houses is not as good as flipping stocks, and flipping stocks is not as good as flipping shoes.”

Y: Doesn’t sound too sustainable to me.  What do you think, Rui? What did we learn today?

R: Well, I learned that there has been a near simultaneous rise in sneaker-trading apps in both the US and China in the last five years or so.  It seems to be one of those unique trends where Gen-Z’ers across the ocean are converging in their consumption habits at the same time.  

Y: Not really out of their own free will though, right? They are being manipulated by streetwear brands who’ve figured out how to create hype and scarcity by using limited editions, celebrity collaborations, and other ways we didn’t get to explore like incremental rollouts and local exclusives.

[31:16] R: Oh, so so many ways. But at least in China, where there was no homegrown skater or surfer culture, it couldn’t have exploded this quickly without riding on the wave of the great success of the NBA. Despite not being the most popular sport to be actually played in China, the NBA far outstrips all other sports franchises as the most watched, followed sports league in China.

Y: Which is why it was only natural that in China at least, the current leading sneaker resale platform grew out of Hupu, a content and community website started over fifteen years ago by two hardcore Chinese NBA fans for others just like them.

R: Some in China are pointing to this as the rise of a “he-economy,” because at least in China, the sneakerhead community is still predominantly male.  Whereas the majority of ecommerce platforms and apps in China thus far have catered mostly to women, Poizon is showing the way to a category where men are the primary consumers.  

[32:20] Y: Many others are seeing the same opportunity.  You have apps like NICE which has pivoted into the space, and existing unicorns like Zhihu 知乎 whose audience is also majority male contemplating moves as well.  Not to mention US startup GOAT just announced it’s coming into China, and of course Stadium Goods was always in China, and will now have even more resources now that it’s part of Farfetch. Sure Poizon has direct and indirect affiliations with Hupu, Bytedance and China’s Most Eligible Bachelor, it’s still the current No. 1 undisputed leader, but does it have a strong enough head start to fend off the incoming competition?

R: I think it’s well positioned, but its bigger problem is that of lots of fakes in its app.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s because it allows for photo authentication of its shoes. I mean, how do you know whether a pair of shoes is real from photos? I don’t get it. Anyway, even StockX, the American sneaker unicorn, still has a fake rate of 1%, and it’s been investing heavily into this process. From all the critical pieces I see on the internet and all the complaints about Poizon, it seems that Poizon’s fake rate is probably a lot higher than that.

Y: So kinda bullish on the sector, or at least the general streetwear-sneaker sector in general, but not sure how it’s going to play out specifically for the players currently.  Enough to be a standalone, IPO-able company? TheRealReal achieved that, but for all luxury goods and not any specific category.  What do you think? Let us know!

[34:05Y: OK, that’s all for this week folks! Thanks for listening. As a reminder, episodes will now be available every other Friday instead of Wednesdays. We really enjoyed putting this together, and we are always open to any comments or suggestions. You can find us on twitter at thepandaily, at techbuzzchina, and my personal Twitter account is GINYGINY.

R: And my Twitter is spelled RUIMA. TechBuzz China by Pandaily is powered by the Sinica Podcast Network. Pandaily.com is an English language site that tells you “everything about China’s innovation.” Our producers are Shaw Wan and Kaiser Kuo. Our intern is Wang Menglu. Thank you for listening!