Is it ethical for resellers to raise the price of Kobe Bryant merchandise?
Prices on Kobe Bryant sneakers and jerseys soared two to three times within 24 hours following news of the sudden death of the Los Angeles Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant. That’s led to a debate in the sneaker community on whether it’s appropriate to profit from the tragedy.
Nike sold out of Kobe Bryant merchandise within two days following the helicopter crash that took his life. But the sports apparel giant is considering postponing a planned February 7 launch of a new color of one of Mr. Bryant’s past models to prevent resellers from profiting exorbitantly. Mr. Bryant is behind only Michael Jordan and LeBron James in player sneaker sales for Nike.
Some resellers were either locking in existing prices or banning the sale of Mr. Bryant’s products altogether to limit profiting out of respect for the family and his legacy.
“We will not be selling any Kobes till further notice,” RIF Los Angeles announced in a statement.
In an Instagram post, Jaysse Lopez, founder of Las Vegas-based Urban Necessities, noted that he “instructed staff we are not upping the price of any Kobe products at all.”
“Not how I built my brand or how I need to make a dollar,” he added.
StockX, a leading reseller site, plans to donate all proceeds from sales of Mr. Bryant’s product this week to the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.
Not all resale sites have stopped selling, and social media commenters have loudly called out sellers as overly opportunistic. Some, however, are wondering why the circumstances aren’t the same as they are in other instances when a famous person dies.
Andre Ljustina, owner of Project Blitz, a Los Angeles reseller, told Complex, the sneaker website, “When an artist passes, everyone goes after their works. It’s just normal in the art world. So, it shouldn’t be any different with Kobe’s shoes. When [Keith] Haring, [Jean Michael] Basquiat and [Andy] Warhol died, their prices went up. The fact people are buying is actually incredible, and I think it pays tribute to Kobe.”
- Sources: Nike sold out of Kobe Bryant-related items online – ESPN
- Nike sells out of Kobe Bryant merchandise, as resellers take steps to not profit off tragedy – ABC News
- Nike Says It Sold Out Of Kobe Bryant Products Instead Of Pulling Them From Stores, Contradicting Reports – Forbes
- Resellers Criticized for Benefiting From Kobe Bryant’s Death – Women’s Wear Daily
- Is It Wrong to Resell Kobe Bryant’s Sneakers? – Complex
- People are slamming sneakerheads who are jacking up the prices of Kobe Bryant shoes in the wake of his sudden death, and it reveals a darker side of sneaker culture – Business Insider
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is it ethical for resellers of Kobe Bryant merchandise to raise prices in light of increased demand brought about by his untimely death? How would you advise Nike and resellers of Kobe Bryant merchandise to proceed under the current circumstances?
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22 Comments on "Is it ethical for resellers to raise the price of Kobe Bryant merchandise?"
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Director, Retail Market Insights, Aptos
I am not sure raising prices posthumously is unethical, but seller beware: the practice certainly risks the ire of many segments of the market. Each retailer/reseller will have to decide if the risks of backlash and brand damage are worth the short-term rewards.
Founder, CEO & Author, HeadCount Corporation
As unsavory as it may seem, this is simply a case of supply and demand. Nike is and continues to respectfully honor Kobe and I think they are approaching this terrible situation as well as can be expected.
Chief Executive Officer, The TSi Company
It is not right for anyone to profit under these circumstances, and I am strongly opposed to it. Unfortunately, for some, there is nothing more important than the almighty dollar. A simple solution is a 60-day ban on all products allowing time for the family and everyone to grieve, but it is impossible to police that. We should commend companies that do put a hold on Kobe Bryant merchandise, and we should all do what we can to chastise anyone out there attempting to make that extra dollar, and all his fans should do what they can to steer potential buyers away from making purchases at this time.
Unfortunately, this is something that is not new.
I see this every time a famous person passes away. If the resellers don’t sell it, someone else on eBay will for more money. It is a very slippery slope.
Principal, KIZER & BENDER Speaking
Free enterprise says yes, but is overpricing Kobe merchandise ethical? It’s a fine line but it sure doesn’t feel right.
Principal, Frank Riso Associates, LLC
Unfortunately this is what happens in the world of art, book selling and even in sports. Our only hope is that the family gets some of the benefit from all the profits. If we can turn it around to be more of a memorial or a way to keep the memory of the player alive then that is also good for the family and sales of the merchandise. I would recommend that Nike and other resellers share their profits with the family and/or with other causes that promote basketball or more importantly girls basketball programs around the world. That would be the way to promote the memory of Kobe!
Consulting Partner, TCS
Brands that do not have any brand equity to begin with would not mind. They would see this as an opportunity. Marketplaces like eBay probably cannot/will not control the sale. The context matters. The circumstances are horrific, tragic and sudden, hence it makes sense for the brands to err on the side of caution.
For a famous person who died naturally or under less tragic circumstances, it probably wouldn’t sound as bad. In the case of Kobe, it does feel like making money off of his death — even though in the case of others it would still be the same thing.
Senior Vice President Marketing, PDI
Welcome to the world of sport and celebrity memorabilia. If the debate is on ethics, it’s much broader than Kobe merchandise. You’ll need to go back to Babe Ruth and the birth of celebrity athletes.
Brands like Nike assume risk when they make merch for athletes. One can go into their local Nike outlet and find high-quality jerseys and gear for athletes who don’t appeal to the public interest and where Nike may be taking a loss. The investment doesn’t always pay off for these brands – so why should they feel guilty when they are able to maximize their profit on something they were willing to invest in AND something the athlete themselves not only signed off on, but was compensated for?
If you step back, this price inflation stands to tremendously benefit the long-term value of that athlete’s brand and stock.
Strategy & Operations Transformation Leader
Tragedies like these really put things in perspective, yet at the same time turn into opportunities in the resell market. Kobe Bryant was one of the rare athletes who transcended sports, and whose story has resonated with millions. While it’s not unethical to shift prices based on supply and demand, Kobe’s brand will have long term sustainability.
CEO, President- American Retail Consultants
Resellers should be managing their inventories, pricing and promotions of Kobe merchandise just like they do any other merchandised product from a superstar who has passed away (Babe Ruth, Deacon Jones, etc.). Resellers are in the business of selling merchandised product. Taking this away from them would be removing their living, so it is definitely ethical for them to sell and manage the price of all of their merchandise.
Co-founder, RSR Research
One word answer. No.
Don’t do it. Too soon. Bad vibes. Just wrong.
Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates
Retail companies that do this will be eyed warily by consumers from now on. Stay classy.
Principal, KIZER & BENDER Speaking
My perspective is that any profiteering on someone’s passing is just wrong. It’s not a time for profiteering. It’s all about celebration and remembrance of a life. Sadly, profiteering will always exist.
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
When companies build software to optimize revenue or margin, they apply supply and demand dynamics and include their cost structure and competitor actions. There’s no setting in the logic that states, “forego your legal rights and bypass revenue and margin upside due to ethical issues.”
The point is that the entire economic logic with inherent penalties and rewards does not explicitly consider ethics as long as one remains within the legal framework. I don’t have to like it, and I don’t, but that is the reality of the marketplace. Capitalism is about the best legal use of your capital to maximize returns on investment. Yes, there is a move toward conscious capitalism and other similar efforts; the challenge is when the competition operates to maximize the here and now, will you be around by playing the long game while ignoring the exigencies of the day?
Professor, International Business, Guizhou University of Finance & Economics and University of Sanya, China.
How would you advise Nike and resellers of Kobe Bryant merchandise to proceed under the current circumstances? Simply do not raise prices!
But “ethical” is a funny word in this circumstance. Should resellers ethically have the right to price their merchandise as they see fit? Of course. In this case there could be consequences.
The other side of it is the consumer side. Why would you pay two to three times the value for the merchandise? There will be more tomorrow at the regular price.
Content Marketing Manager, Surefront
Ethical? Sure. Gross? Absolutely. The analogy to the art world doesn’t fly with me since retailers and athletes are part of consumers’ daily lives. While this might help retailers make a few extra bucks on Kobe products, it will also alienate customers.
Again, in today’s market, customers need to feel like a retailer is on their side––politically, economically, and personally. This is the type of move that customers won’t soon forget and certain brands will assuredly be boycotted as a result.
Thank god I’m not a sports fan.
Global Retail & CPG Sales Strategist, IBM
Let’s keep this simple and take emotion out of the business decision: Supply and demand. Gouge too much and the revenue goes down. Is it wrong for retailers to gouge on bottled water after natural disasters? Ethically? Yes. Financially? You make the call.
EVP Thought Leadership, Marketing, WD Partners
I had a CEO in Norway ask me if what Amazon was doing was “ethical.” My response to him, and to this question today, is that in the U.S., retail is like war — ALL is fair, and all is driven by the consumer. It’s a consumer nation, so if what’s put out is deemed unethical the consumer will let us know. They are the standard; the benchmark. If you get lit up on social media and it goes viral, well, then you know you made a mistake. So the real question here is, do consumers think it’s unethical? i.e.; did they buy the stuff — because if they did, there’s your answer.
President, b2b Solutions, LLC
My short answer is no. Retailers should not for many reasons including the fact it makes them look like vultures. However, what has already happened is people are buying at the regular and increased prices and reselling it for an even higher price.
Nike definitively should not. The ramifications for its brand image would be terrible.
Retail Tech Marketing Strategist | B2B Expert Storytelling™ Guru | President, VSN Media LLC
Jacking up prices on Kobe Bryant sneakers may be cold-hearted and opportunistic, even bad karma, but it’s not unethical, per se. Sellers have a right to ask any price they want for collectible merchandise.
The puzzling part for me is, who pays those prices? I’m guessing the same speculators who invest in Mickey Mantle rookie cards or Joe Namath jerseys. Eventually many of those folks hope to sell their items at a profit to other collectors, I suppose.
CFO, Weisner Steel
Well, I’m relieved that we at least aren’t being asked if his death is an “opportunity.” Since this is RetailWire, not MoralityWire, I will answer thusly: whatever the ethics, it’s a bad idea — at least for selling of existing stock.
Retailers who go to extra expense to acquire new merchandise are of course allowed to recoup their costs, and auction sites get to live by their normal rules — highest bid gets it.
Owner, Tony O's Supermarket and Catering