When Miami-based sneaker and clothing boutique Sneak Attack shuttered its doors on Sept. 1 for an indefinite hiatus, the consignment shop was two months behind in payments owed to a number of resellers who had supplied the store with merchandise to sell.
Those resellers — independent contractors who turn a profit by snagging limited-edition, or “hype,” street wear to peddle inside the store — had been instructed to visit the store every first of the month to recoup their earnings from the month before.
But the company, named the best sneaker shop by the Miami New Times in 2016, has pushed back the delivery of consignment payments three times since July 31. The delays coincided with an announced relocation scheduled tentatively for “the holidays,” but some resellers expressed frustration that they had not been compensated for their merchandise and that they could not get in touch with management.
Selling expensive clothing and shrink-wrapped sneakers on the secondary market is a lucrative enterprise, with fashion-obsessed customers willing to fork over several hundreds of dollars for rare items from trendy retailers that often sell out in minutes online.
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In 2016, the self-described teenage “sneaker plug” Benjamin Kapelushnik earned national media attention for his self-made sneaker reselling enterprise that counted among its celebrity clientele New York Giants football star Odell Beckham Jr. and hip-hop mogul DJ Khaled. Sneaker fanatics have been selling off or trading their “kicks” for decades, during public swaps or through online marketplaces like eBay or — more recently — Instagram. High-end consignment shops like Sneak Attack are a more recent development. In 2017, reselling titan Stadium Goods secured nearly $5 million in equity funding, and this year the company announced it would open a concept space inside a New York Nordstrom.
For some resellers who do business with Sneak Attack, which announced it would relocate to Wynwood, the red flags popped up in August. After announcing in late July that consignments would be paid out on Aug. 15 — not Aug. 1 — the store took to social media about a week later to announce it was moving, but it did not say when or exactly where.
Resellers were then told they would receive their payment on Sept. 1, and to pick up any unsold items by Aug. 25.
When they visited the store on Sept. 1, they said it was shuttered. Through its social media pages, Sneak Attack urged current resellers to email their full names and shipping addresses to the store.
“We no longer have access to the space and we are sorry for the inconvenience,” a Sept. 1 post reads. “Sometimes things don’t go as smoothly as we hope. We will be mailing checks and if we do not have your address, please email it to us as soon as possible. We are not and have no intention of keeping anyone’s consignment items or [money] owed to them.”
Several of them expressed frustration that, despite communicating through social media, no one from Sneak Attack had responded to to their emails to confirm they had received their information.
“I’ve been doing business with them for more than a year now,” said Hallandale reseller Quinton Johnson, who said he is owed about $4,460. “Now it has become a little out of hand, and it’s been two months since we got a consignment check.”
Sneak Attack told the Herald through a representative that it would start mailing out checks and any unsold items on Sept. 7 following inquiries from a reporter. In August, the store said it would announce a location where resellers could receive their checks, but it appears that plan has been scrapped.
The representative said the store had received a flood of emails from apparent resellers — some that appeared illegitimate — and that it would take time to comb through them all to identify which claims were legitimate.
Johnson and three other resellers shared their consignment sheets with the Herald to prove their claims were legitimate. Resellers who do business with Sneak Attack track the status of their merchandise on a color-coded Google sheet managed by the store.
If someone bought a reseller’s item, Sneak Attack would typically pay the reseller 80 percent of the sale price, which is often much higher than the retail price.
Johnson’s sales sheet shows that someone paid $350 for a pair of Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “Homage” shoes in June and that someone else paid $400 for a Supreme T-shirt bearing the likeness of rapper Gucci Mane.
“My list is huge,” the 31-year-old said. “I supply the store with a lot of the stuff they have in there. This is my business. I don’t do anything but sell shoes, clothes... [and] hype items.”
Patricia Elliot, who spoke to the Herald on behalf of Sneak Attack, said she had received threatening emails from some purported resellers, along with private phone calls from people claiming to be Miami Herald journalists.
“We don’t screw people over,” Elliot told a reporter over the phone. She then urged the reporter to “tread lightly” while writing this article. The next day, she accused the reporter of “falsifying that you work for the Miami Herald” and claimed a “police report has been made.”
“We’re trying to be the honest people,” Elliot said. “The consignments are ready.”
Sneak Attack first began operating in Miami in 2013, according to the Florida Division of Corporations. The store has been located at 2519 NE 2nd Ave. since at least 2016.
The store repeatedly told resellers to call or email with any questions or concerns, but their listed phone number has been disconnected and emails have gone ignored. Frustrations festered inside an email chain comprised of a few dozen resellers after the store emailed them all at once. Some people contemplated filing a police report or speaking with attorneys, but most said they would wait it out.
“People are pissed,” reseller Ariel Shorter told the Herald. She claims to be owed more than $1,000 but did not provide the Herald with her sales sheet. “I know I’m not the only one [the store] owes a lot of money to.”