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How A Brand’s Ability To Listen Will Determine Its Value

How A Brand's Ability To Listen Will Determine Its Value

StockX editorial director Pete Forester discusses why streetwear is far from dead, and how the resale platform is part of the category's new generation

PSFK: Start us out with a little about the work you do at StockX currently.

Pete Forester: I joined StockX as the editorial director just a couple months ago. My main focus is to make sure that our editorial content is being executed with a holistic strategy—that it's not just in line with our business goals, but also with the community's objectives.

We operate in streetwear, sneakers, handbags, collectibles and watches, and there are different communities attached to each. It's important for me that all of our consumers who are a part of those communities understand that we're in this for the long haul. It's not just that we're a place for e‑commerce and for trades—really, what we're providing is access.

The platform is as much a marketplace as it is a resource for all the data and the insights that we get from having many users and trades, as well as insights into the cultures that are touched by the products that we carry. It's important to me that everything that we put out editorially is balancing all those different elements. That's what I'm keeping an eye on.

What trends have you noticed emerging within retail lately?

I feel like we're in a moment right now of really great transition. In the last couple years, we've seen this incredible boom of access to create your own brand. We saw a bunch of people create brands just because they thought it would be cool. That boom has ended, and now we're on the other side.

We're seeing a contraction and the retail side is recalibrating, testing what we've learned. This process has created a class of younger consumers who now hold a larger share of the market, and who can see through nonsense.

I think that StockX is there to catch what the results are. We're able to connect those consumers to the products that they really want and weed out the ones they don't—and without telling anybody what they should want. Brands can't really tell people what they want anymore, because the consumer is just so far beyond that.

Sustainability is also a big trend that we're seeing coming from the brands. One of the lessons there is that it's not good enough for something to be just sustainable anymore; it has to also be a dope product.

Another thing we're seeing is the increase of women's exclusives, sneakers especially. It's like decades behind. It's preposterous. It raises a really interesting question for me, which is, culturally, why women have been left out of the conversation. Then you ask the brands, “Why are you leaving them out of the conversation?” and they're like, “Well, women aren't buying the shoes.” It's like, “Well, you're also not making shoes for women in the space.”

It's really on the brands to investigate that. On our side, we're seeing the interest there, which I hope is a huge indicator.

PSFK has definitely seen a lot of those trends as well. We recently wrote a piece called “Gen Z And Millennials Are Getting Real. Here's How Brands Are Keeping Up,” which touched on that idea of younger consumers not taking BS from brands anymore and dictating what retailers sell.

I'm an older Millennial. We're not taking less than the best because we don't have to. It's because of the increase of the brand volume that we touched on earlier, but also on our ability to communicate, come together as a community, fact‑check, and look through the BS. If a brand is going to release something that is sub-par, we're just not going to buy it. What you can do is continue to find different, unique ways to hoodwink—or you can just make really good products.

What are some of the best retail activations or general innovations you've seen lately?

We've gotten so used to big drops being centered around or being the core of an activation as consumers. As interest has grown, especially in the sneaker space, what a retailer would consider just a normal, weekly drop has become something of an event week‑to‑week. The pressure becomes really intense. It's been interesting for me to see how retailers have changed the way that they have presented these drops, based upon the high interest. It's just as interesting to see a smaller retailer have to change the way they think about putting out this week's Jordan's, because they're going to have way more people showing up than there are pairs of shoes, and how to navigate that.

What we had to do at KITH when the Air Yeezy 2 dropped was crazy, because the interest was so intense, but it wasn't our product, so we didn't do a build‑out. That, to me, is just a very interesting thing to think about and the way that those things have changed.

What is StockX currently focused on innovating?

One of the things that we've been focused on and looking at is our IPO process and how we can introduce products to the market that aren't secondary products but still stay at the center of what we do as a marketplace—which is be as transparent as possible, and think about what the market value of products is, and what the implications are broadly.

Our IPO process involves what's called a Dutch blind auction. Say we have 10 products or 10 pieces. We  look at the top 10 bids, take the lowest, and sell the pieces at that price point.

It's the best way to really figure out what the true market value of something is. This takes the burden away from a brand to figure out, “Oh, what will people pay for this?” There's an implication for what this could potentially do in a larger arena, and how it can change a consumer's relationship with what they see as the value of a product. Then you're able to track how the value of that product changes over time, because we know the market value from day one.

Why do you think this method is resonating with consumers so much right now?

A couple of weeks ago, Virgil Abloh said, “Streetwear is dead.” Maybe to him it is—as somebody who has enough money and enough access to get whatever it is his heart desires. If you have that sort of access, you may start to feel differently about what's happening in that arena.

If you're a young kid who has never had access to these incredible products before at a price that was reasonable, it's always going to be exciting and interesting, and the life cycle of that is going to be much longer. That's how I feel. I think that it's very much alive. This community and this culture is continuing to offer more access to people who didn't have it before.

Sure, sometimes an influencer can push something in one direction or the other. But I think where the power is coming from is these larger groups. I think that that's where StockX's power is: We are constantly fed all this information from our users to help us understand, “What is it that people want? Where is it that people are going?” so we can really just better serve them.

To wrap up, what do you think that retailers outside of streetwear can take away from the category's strategies or from a streetwear resale platform like StockX?

I think one of the biggest things is listening and understanding that, if you're looking at a Millennial or Gen Zer, if you're looking at the consumer who is gaining more and more market share, and if you want to grab them, it's about authenticity. The time for a brand or a retailer to dictate what it is you should be buying or you should be wearing is over. There's a way to be a creative or a collaborator and to listen to a consumer at the same time.

You just have to have the flexibility and the authentic creativity to figure out how to do it. That's what we're trying to do all the time. We have our ears open. I really think it's about that communication, that understanding, and that ability—and the humility to listen and learn.


For more from Pete, come see him on Anomaly's “Buying Into The Hype” panel, part of New York Retail Innovation Week!