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Supreme Grows Up | GQ

So Steiner was surprised when I told him that by Thursday afternoon, hours after the appointed 11:00 am drop time, I could still add practically every product from the North Face collection to my cart. The stock-clearing bot swarm, in other words, had not materialized. “That’s crazy,” Steiner said. “That was never a thing. It would be like, there’s a huge problem with the website if they’re still in stock after five minutes.”

The problem wasn’t with the website but, it seems, with the bots. Supreme has been locked in an arms race with bot networks for years, introducing measures like Captcha forms and bot detection to stymie hypebeast hackers. Which didn’t always work: Steiner stopped running Supreme Saint in 2017 not because he could no longer outsmart the website, but because there were too many rival botters.

But Supreme appears to have finally triumphed when, earlier this year, the brand migrated its webstore to the ubiquitous e-commerce platform Shopify, which touts strong bot protection services. These days, according to the team behind the Supercop bot service, which is claimed to be “ranked #1” among all Supreme bots when reached via email earlier this week, “there’s significantly less demand” for their services. “Supreme,” they continued, “specifically has made it a bit more challenging than just a regular Shopify store.”

According to Supercop, Supreme’s best defense hasn’t just been technological. “People are much less likely to impulse buy a bot now that Supreme has sold out and is producing much larger quantities of goods,” the company said in its statement.

Supercop is speculating—nobody really knows how much of anything Supreme makes. But it stands for that reason, in an effort to refocus on their core customer, Supreme could be making more of certain garments, especially now that they can draw on VF’s supply chain expertise (the company also owns The North Face, Dickies, Vans, and Timberland). A Supreme representative declined to comment.

As Supreme expands into new markets like China (via a dedicated shop at Dover Street Market Beijing, which opened in November), the brand is certainly selling more logo-emblazoned gear boxes overall than ever before. According to VF, Supreme revenues hit $561.5 million for the year ending in March 2022; VF had been expecting revenues of $500 million. In 2017, that number was around $200 million.

In another sign that Supreme is entering a new period of normalcy, this surge in sales has coincided with an apparent dip in the brand’s collectibility. By at least one metric, the value of Supreme goods on the secondary market, while still inflated, is trending closer to its actual value. According to Cynthia Lee, VP of Merchandising at major resale player StockX, the average price premium of Supreme apparel and accessories sold on the site fell from 67% in 2020 to 57% in 2022, while overall sales volume held steady.

If Steiner’s experience is any indication, other people who helped shape the hype-driven secondary market have likely left the game now that Supreme has come down to earth.

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