Entrepreneurial teens are selling hyped merchandise on resale platforms such as Depop – and earning mega-bucks. Every Thursday morning, a snake-like queue forms outside streetwear brand Supreme’s store in Soho as fans line up in the hope of walking away with bags filled with limited edition clothing “dropped” that day.
Among the fanatics are teenagers, and they’re not just there to boost the coolness of their wardrobe – they’ve come for the sole purpose of buying highly sought-after items to resell on Depop, a youth-targeted (54% of its users are aged 14 to 24) auction app.
And it’s not just Supreme they’re lapping up. Generation Z – those born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s – are buying hyped merchandise from streetwear brands such as Bape, Nike and Yeezy to resell for significantly more on platforms such as Depop, eBay and Grailed.
Forget delivering newspapers or working shifts in the local supermarket. Instead, these entrepreneurial teens – many still at school or college – are devoting hours every week to reselling limited edition goods, a gig that’s earning them up to several thousand pounds a month.
Reuben Wall was just 14 when he became hooked on selling items online after he bought one too many Rubik’s Cubes by accident.
“I decided to sell the spare cube and I sold it for double the price that I got it for,” says Wall, now 18. He then re-invested the money in buying two more and sold those on eBay, before purchasing more. “Before long I had a whole tower of Rubik’s Cubes.”
From there he moved on to selling Japanese anime merchandise before settling on his current market – reselling streetwear from Supreme, Palace and Kith.
“When I saw how much certain items were selling for on eBay, I wanted a piece of the action,” says Wall, who is studying for a BA in music production at Northbrook Metropolitan College in Brighton. “I started selling mostly T-shirts, then coats and jackets because they go for a bit more.”
He says he will only buy hyped items, and reads comments and polls on Twitter to gauge the popularity of a certain product.
Sometimes items will “brick” (an item that doesn’t resell for much more than retail), so sometimes he takes a loss. He spends about three hours a day reselling, and makes a profit of between £1,000 to £2,000 a month. To help increase his chances of success, he lists the same items on multiple resale platforms.
While Wall spends the cash on rent, food and clothes, it’s also provided him with an enviable money pot worth £14,000. “I’m saving for a mortgage on a house,” he adds.
Like Wall, Scarlett Gillespie, who lives in Greenwich in London, was 14 when she started selling clothes on Depop. “When I didn’t wear something any more, I thought I may as well sell it on,” says Gillespie, now 15. She mainly sold branded clothes such as American Apparel, but soon realised she could earn more by buying and reselling hyped products from brands with a cult-like following. “I’ve bought Supreme rucksacks and tops from the drop at Supreme’s store on Carnaby Street,” she says. “I’ve only been once – and spent almost a whole day queueing and in the store – but I’ll often ask friends to buy stuff for me.”
Gillespie also seeks out products from labels such as Nike, Adidas and Ralph Lauren, and scours clothes markets. Like many of her peers, she discovers which products are in demand by checking streetwear-focused Facebook group The Basement. She recently bought a Supreme backpack for £120 and sold it for £180, handing her a tidy £60.
She earns an average £100 a month and “wherever I go, I look out for products to resell. My dad is always asking what I’ve sold. He thinks it’s cool.”
Many Depop resellers such as Lydia Clear, who has 9,942 followers on Instagram, create hype around their products by modelling them on the photo-sharing platform.
“There’s a whole market of Instagram influencers that sell clothing on Depop and these markets feed off each other,” says Petah Marian, a senior editor at trend forecasting firm WGSN. “They build up their influence and street credibility on the platforms – this helps them when they come to selling.”
But does this devalue the brands at all – or are they losing out because their products are being sold again through resale sites? (There’s no response to emails sent to brands such as Supreme, Nike and Yeezy.)
Marian says it’s a win-win for the labels. “It’s good for brands as kids are so attached to the items. It makes people buy into the brand more, and demand creates desire.”
Depop founder Simon Beckerman says the app, which has had more than 7m registrations, has “opened the doors” to a new generation using a marketplace for the first time.
“You have vintage sellers specialising in the 70s, people with a more Y2K [early 2000s] aesthetic, then there are of course the ones who are into the culture of the drop,” he says.
Beckerman says Generation Z aren’t afraid of building empires from their bedrooms. “There’s very little risk in trying,” he adds. “There’s so much uncertainty around us nowadays that being your own boss is a very appealing idea.”
This interest in reselling among teenagers forms a key part of Gen Z’s characteristics, says Lucie Greene, worldwide director of the Innovation Group at JWT Intelligence. “Gen Z are generally much more entrepreneurial and creative in the way they make money. They see themselves as brands, creators, marketers and are using social media to monetise their influence,” she adds.
Growing up as digital natives, spending time online to create their own Depop store or building hype around clothes on Instagram is second nature to this demographic.
“As a generation they’re showing a massive amount of self-awareness and agency, as well as being extremely creative and sophisticated in their understanding of brands and culture,” says Greene.
“The combination is that you have this micro-entrepreneurship being applied to lots of what they do. It’s also reflective of their interests generally. If millennials were the reality TV generation where anyone could be a celebrity, Gen Zs are the cohort who believe that anyone can have their own business.”
Ask the teenagers if they feel guilty about buying items and reselling for a significant mark-up, and it’s pretty much a resounding no.
“For those that genuinely support the brand, that want to buy clothes to wear and keep, it’s understandably annoying to be beaten to a product by someone just looking to make money on the exact same item,” says 18-year-old James Marshall Griffin, who lives in Southampton and resells hyped streetwear products by brands such as Supreme and Palace, making him about £600 to £1,000 a month.
“However, it’s inevitable people are going to do this when people are willing to pay sometimes 10 times the retail price within the first 10 minutes of the item selling out if they’re really eager for it.”
It’s a dog-eat-dog world for these entrepreneurial teens.
RAGS TO RICHES
The 17-year-old lives in Brighton and is studying for her A-levels.
Lydia Clear was only 14 when she caught the bug for selling clothes online.
“My mum used to sell on eBay, and so when I grew bored of my outfits I started selling them on Depop.”
It wasn’t until last year that she started buying clothes with the sole intention of reselling online for a higher price. “I started going to Supreme drops in London during the school holidays and I’d buy the most popular items,” she says. “I’d also often go to Adidas and Nike shops to buy hyped items that I’d heard about on social media.”
During one Supreme drop, Clear enlisted several of her friends to queue and buy products that she could sell on Depop. She spent a total of £300 on hoodies and T-shirts and made a profit of £1,000.
To create more hype, she also models the clothes on Instagram, where she has close to 10,000 followers, and add a link to her Depop store.
She spends about two hours a day reselling, and makes about £1,000 profit every month. She has saved up £8,000 so far from reselling. It’s certainly a win-win for her mum and dad. “I’ve told my parents not to give me any money – I don’t need any from them any more.”