If you are a fan of trainers and streetwear, you’ll be familiar with Kick Game.
However, it’s fast becoming a brand the rest of the population is starting to notice with flagship stores opening across major cities including London, Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham and even Milan.
The idea of reselling trainers from prime locations such as Covent Garden would have been unheard of until just a few years ago. But Kick Game provides a platform for people to sell sneakers and doesn’t buy any stock from the major brands it sells, including Nike or Adidas.
Founded back in 2013 by London brothers David and Robert Franks, Kick Game capitalised on the market for rare and sold-out trainers to become the largest reseller of its kind.
After joining the retailer three years ago, chief executive Alicia Thompson, who was previously at cycling specialist Rapha and held roles at Deloitte, has precided over strong growth as the pandemic-driven streetwear surge helped Kick Game’s sales explode. Revenue soared to well over £40m at the end of 2022.
Kick Game even won £2.5m in venture capital funding from VCG Partners early in the pandemic to help it fuel future growth while last August, the business reportedly drafted in advisers to explore strategic options including a £150 million sale.
Thompson sees no sign of growth slowing as the sector’s appeal remains strong.
“This streetwear trend and casualisation of clothing will be here for the next decade as people continue to have that flexible lifestyle, flexible working, but also the creativity,” she says.
However, it’s products aren’t just about fashion. Rare trainers are fast-emerging as an asset coveted by collectors and traders.
According to Thompson, Kick Game has become a leader in streetwear and sneaker culture and is now on a mission to become what she terms a “new luxury” retailer.
“New luxury is different to the old style of luxury,” she says, adding that streetwear is at the heart of the luxury sector now.
“All of the high-end fashion brands have strong links to streetwear, especially on the menswear side,” she adds.
“This year is all about becoming known for new luxury”
For Kick Game, getting deeper into the luxury world means “getting a few more high-end or new luxury streetwear apparel brands” in its stores along with showcasing more new designers.
“This year is all about becoming known for new luxury. We want to own that space,” she says.
Stepping into stores
One of the reasons Kick Game secured funding from VCG is to roll out stores.
The retailer had been trading from a store on Kensington High Street but the bulk of its business was done online.
Thompson says: “There’s a much higher propensity for people to shop in store for footwear than clothing which can be more online, particularly in Europe
“So we knew we wanted to have stores and we wanted to activate the stores as community hubs.”
Following successful openings in Burlington Arcade and Covent Garden in London, Kick Game has rolled out stores to other cities that have a large streetwear following. It now trades from nine stores across the UK.
The retailer has slick, minimalist stores, with shoes displayed across the perimeter walls.
Thompson explains: “We wanted to showcase the shoes as like pieces of artwork.”
“I didn’t want anything on the walls to take away from the sneakers and I wanted our staff to be able to talk me through them.”
She stresses the importance of staff being able to answer consumers’ questions, including on colourways and limited releases.
“It was really important that we didn’t have much signage or branding so staff can really interact with the customer.”
She adds that the store’s minimal layouts and modular pieces work well as it allows Kick Game stores to host in-store activations, album signings and “anything else we think our customers will love and enjoy”.
“We use them as spaces to activate,” Thompson continues. “We even launch other people’s brands in there when we’re not selling them.
“We’re all about building that community. So the space is there to showcase the shoes, but also to be useful for events and activations.”
Last year Kick Game launched SneakHxr Fest, a festival dedicated to celebrating women in streetwear through a plethora of panel talks and performances from some of the leading music talent in the UK.
The event, which is held to coincide with International Women’s Day, returned this year with thousands of people filling Protein Studios in Shoreditch to explore the huge range of vendors and activities on offer.
What sets Kick Game apart from its rivals?
There are now a number of retailers with similar business models to Kick Game, including Footpatrol and Crepslocker.
However, Kick Game is undoubtedly the market leader.
Thompson says its in-store experiences and brand marketing have helped it become the cream of the crop.
“We’re not just thinking about London”
She explains that in recent years, nowhere outside of London has been able to “bring this level of high-end, sought after, hard-to-find sneakers to the rest of the country”.
“We’re not just thinking about London – we’re going to other cities and bringing the best shoes to the rest of the UK.”
Thompson also emphasises the importance of having strong product availability in-store, something resellers have been known to struggle with in the past as they often only stock limited sizes.
It’s offer is certainly winning it fans and helping the business to soar. Turnover beat expectations by hitting £45m last year, which Thompson terms “brilliant growth”.
Although she declines to attach a target to 2023, she says “we’re going for really strong growth again”.
“The economy’s a bit slow to start this year but our sector is still really growing,” she adds.
The business is doing its best to offer customers slightly cheaper alternatives amid the cost-of-living crisis and is also broadening its offering, “so they’re not just coming to us for sneakers”.
It has even introduced its own lower-priced Kick Game merchandise.
“We’re trying to think about those that are really feeling it and we’ve lowered the prices on some of our lines, where in some instances, we’re taking less margin,” says Thompson.
Kick Game is also focused on growing its customer base.
“We’re trying to get new people that haven’t bought from us to buy,” she says.
“We’re confident we’ll grow quite strongly again this year and that will be from increasing our repeat rates, broadening our offerings and having many more new customers.”
There is scope for Kick Game to open more UK stores, with one or two more in both east and west London. It may also open pop-up stores in cities such as Cardiff and Glasgow.
“We’ve got plans to open a few more stores just before the summer which we’re working on at the moment,” she reveals.
Thompson adds that store expansion is really important for Kick Game’s growth.
She explains that the business takes a “city strategy” when opening new stores. The retailer looks for talent, particularly from the music and sports industry, from that city to boost the brand’s credentials within the streetwear scene.
Kick Game works with that talent to create content around its launch that creates a buzz with the streetwear community.
Content is incredibly important for the brand and was an area it really focused on during lockdowns.
During that period, Kick Game began producing a lot of YouTube content with some videos boasting millions of views.
It launched one of its now most-popular segments – ‘Shopping for Sneakers’ – alongside a range of other formats in a bid to foster engagement with its community.
Kick Game has also got its sights set on expansion outside of the UK.
“We’ve got a strong store plan in the UK and now we really want to move into Europe and start owning that space,” says Thompson, who says it is looking to build content and links with talent overseas.
The business is also determined to “bring our Britishness” to its overseas expansion. When it launched in Milan it brought UK rapper Fredo, who has made a multi-million-pound investment in Kick Game, to Italy to connect with the country’s rap scene.
Europe will form the next prong of its aggressive growth plan.
“We’ve got a five-year plan and we’re very, very ambitious and how growth last year was phenomenal. We did 75% growth year on year.”
If Kick Game can continue this growth trajectory, it will soon be known not just sneakerheads but shoppers across the Continent.