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Ox Street CEO’s focus on customer service spurs regional expansion

Ox Street founder and CEO Gijs Verheijke (PHOTO: Ox Street)
Ox Street founder and CEO Gijs Verheijke (PHOTO: Ox Street)

By April Zara Chua

SINGAPORE — Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the inspiration behind sneaker marketplace Ox Street was a pair of sneakers.

“I was living in Myanmar at the time and was trying to get my hands on a pair of adidas OG white Primeknit NMDs. I turned to Singapore but got so incredibly frustrated by the experience of dodging fakes and dealing with sellers that I started to consider starting a business to solve these issues,” Ox Street founder and CEO Gijs Verheijke said in a recent interview with Yahoo Finance Singapore.

It was exactly what he did and launched Ox Street in October 2019.

The first thing he wanted to do was focus on the customers. He believes Singapore has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to customer service, saying that service here can come across as hostile and it’s even worse in the sneaker and streetwear space.

“These products are not cheap, and the market is saturated with fakes and scams, so you have to treat your customers with respect and respond super quickly,” explained Verheijke.

By focusing on that market pain point (and his personal pet peeve), Ox Street was able to capture the sneaker market rather quickly. Their customer loyalty and satisfaction Net Promoter Score is currently at 87 out of 100, an incredible feat for the startup.

But just how big is the industry? Analysts predict the resale industry will grow to US$64 billion by 2025, with Southeast Asia leading the way. Despite the pandemic, the company enjoyed around 35 per cent monthly growth from June to December 2020 and continues to grow at 30 per cent per month.

Verheijke said the company was able to capture some market share from the traditional resale platforms which required face-to-face transactions — something which was hampered due to COVID-19. He added that there was definitely some "revenge shopping" going on as well.

Two months ago, Ox Street announced plans to launch in Malaysia and the Philippines. According to Verheijke, demand can come from anywhere as every city has a sneakerhead. They currently have buyers in almost every county in the region, and even some in Australia and the Middle East. “The seller side is more complicated. We are currently supporting sellers in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Philippines, and it’s a high priority for us to expand this.”

The 35-year-old is able to leverage on his past experience to take the company further, having previously worked at Rocket Internet launching and scaling various marketplace models.

“It was a combination of passion (for sneakers) and business that led me to Ox Street. I often joke that I’m even more of a marketplace nerd than a sneaker nerd,” he said.

Verheijke shares his thoughts about the entrepreneurial experience and the most anticipated sneaker releases this year.

What are the spending patterns of Ox Street’s core demographics?

Ox Street is focused on Generation Z and millennials. Eighty per cent of our buyers are under 35 years old, and around 50 per cent of buyers also sell. On average, a user buys four times per year on Ox Street and spends about S$400 per transaction.

Can you give buyers some tips on how to filter out fakes?

Without intimate knowledge of a specific model, or a confirmed real pair to compare with, it’s almost impossible to see the difference between a real pair and the highest quality fakes.

We always ensure we have access to the real pair so we can document it in detail and use that reference to authenticate others of that same model. I would advise staying away from the raw resale markets unless you really know what you’re doing.

What are your plans for Ox Street in 2021 and beyond?

Our main priority is to keep up our strong momentum. Category expansion is one of our main priorities for this year, but we also have hit our stride in innovating our app. We are the only regionally available app in our category, and I believe that we have to create truly disrupting features and offerings if we really want to become successful.

What are items on your ultimate sneaker wishlist?

Currently, I'm eyeing the latest Air Jordan 1 ‘Neutral Grey’. This is the last of the original 1985 Jordan 1 colours to be re-issued. It was the least popular one back then, but because of that it has become the rarest. The most ‘coveted’ pair from recent history that I own is the Off-White x Air Jordan 4 ‘Sail’ which trades for around S$1,500.

What are the most anticipated sneaker releases this year that are on your radar?

I would have to say the Supreme x Nike Dunk collaborations set to release in April or May. People love to hate Supreme, but it still always sells out in two seconds — so I think it’s safe to say that it will be a smash hit. Another nice one is the Air Jordan 4 ‘University Blue’. It reminds of the Travis Scott x Jordan 4 from a few years ago.

Any advice for people who are thinking of becoming entrepreneurs?

“The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. It’s a candid story of his entrepreneurial journey that just shows how incredibly tough it is to be an entrepreneur. Another one is “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick. It’s about how to ask better questions to people around you to validate your startup ideas. It might be the most important book I ever read.

Something I picked up from an interview with Naval Ravikant, co-founder, chairman and former CEO of AngelList: Don’t feel the pressure to finish books, especially business books. The goal is to get out of that book the learnings you need. Many business and self-help books could have been a blog post.

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