Teens are making thousands thanks to TikTok

A line of young people is waiting in front of a shop where a young woman is looking at clothes on a pole
Earlier this month, shoppers lined up outside a stocked pop-up in Soho, London © Harry Mitchell

It’s a Sunday afternoon in early September and a long queue of teenagers is waiting patiently outside a shop on Dean Street in London’s Soho. Inside the store, Austin Robertson, 19, stands at the checkout and slams his fist at customers as they exit, clearly pleased with their purchases. “Some [of them] waiting in line for seven hours,” he says, and draws another card. “People were camping outside at 2am on Friday night and last night we had people [camping] to.”

Robertson is a TikTok influencer who, along with colleagues Jack Harris and Elliot Renshaw, co-founded Stocked, a vintage pop-up event in its second edition. The first, held in London’s Shoreditch in June, generated close to £50,000 in sales selling streetwear from the ’90s and early 2000s to shoppers aged 13 and over. This event will generate £100,000 in sales by the end of the weekend.

Youngsters like Robertson, Harris and Renshaw have become experts at using the marketing potential of social media to promote themselves and build their own – mostly digitally native – entrepreneurial ventures, such as Examples include Harris’ online resale store Ragz for Life and Renshaw’s BountyBodega. But they’ve also developed a knack for turning their online influence into IRL events.

When streetwear brand Stitch — which was founded by a young creative named Clouder and has more than 152,000 followers on Instagram and TikTok — hosted a pop-up in Soho in August, it attracted similarly long lines. In June, shoppers waited hours under the Los Angeles sun to experience Swedish brand Djerf Avenue’s first pop-up and meet founder Matilda Djerf, who launched the label in 2019 and sold it at an estimated $22 million. made a dollar deal.

London-based singer Mya Charalambides, 20, launched the 2o2st pop-up event on Instagram in June 2021. Held every two months on Sundays, 2o2st offers a small space on Berwick Street in Soho for a mix of second-hand Depop sellers, Instagram brands and independent designers. Charalambides has a small following on social media, but her event includes vendors with large audiences and typically attracts up to 300 people.

A young woman holds several pieces of clothing on hangers while people queue on the other side of the shop window
Many shoppers are willing to stand in line for hours to buy fashion they can’t find on the high street. . . ©Harry Mitchell
Two young men hold clothes in a shop that has a long hanging rail
. . . and enjoy the community feel of the event © Harry Mitchell

Stocked does not have a website or social channels. The lion’s share of the marketing is done via TikTok, where organizers show homemade videos promoting Stocked’s merchandise, often simply laid out on the floor of their bedroom. your hashtag #stockedsoho had more than a million views prior to the event.

“A lot of reinforcement happens on TikTok. We’ve seen a number of hashtag trends that start off incredibly small but snowball,” said Bill Fisher, senior analyst at Insider Intelligence. Because of how the TikTok algorithm works, which learns what users like and finds similar content, it’s easy for videos to land ahead of their target market, unlike Instagram or Facebook, where brands often have to invest more to muddle through eliminate and insert themselves into people’s feeds.

“TikTok is so contextual that if you can tie into a trend or community, you’ll find your content organically inserted into people’s For You page,” Fisher continues. “It’s an incredibly powerful platform for any young entrepreneur who doesn’t have huge marketing budgets.”

The personal, playful, and almost down-to-earth aspect of happenings like Stocked and 2o2st sets them apart from the myriad of pop-up events organized by mainstream brands – a huge incentive for teens to queue up. “It is important to our buyers to buy from small companies,” says Charalambides. “They enjoy being active themselves when shopping and knowing who they are buying from. It’s a much more personal experience than going to a regular high street store.”

Throughout the day, Stocked organizes races, quizzes and dance-offs to keep people waiting in line entertained. While I was there, two teens in low-waisted cargo pants boldly stepped forward to finish the lyrics to Estelle and Kanye West’s 2008 pop hit “American Boy” to encouraging cheers (prize: a pair of free t-shirts). The day before, someone had done a backflip, also for a free t-shirt.

Young people walk through the street
Stocked runs races as well as quizzes and dance-offs to entertain people waiting in line © Harry Mitchell
Young people queue up to enter a shop
The queue for Stocked’s first pop-up in London’s Shoreditch in June © Harry Mitchell

The event offers a chance to socialize for young people who have lost face-to-face interaction during two years of lockdown.

“There is a generation between 13 and 15 who would have been in their formative years during lockdown. You meet up with friends there,” says Robertson. “On the internet you can reach these huge communities of people, but then you never see or meet them in real life. People enjoy the event and the community aspect of being around people with similar interests.”

The same sense of community lives among the vendors. Harris, Renshaw and Robertson provide the space, including rails, hangers and card readers, to the other vendors, who bring goods and pay a fee that covers the rent. “We all work together to help source inventory, we advise each other, we support each other as a group of sellers rather than compete against each other,” says Robertson.

Two young men sit on chairs and look at the camera in a shop where clothes and backpacks are on display. Behind them are two young men and two young women

Co-founders Austin Robertson and Jack Harris (fourth and fifth from left) with vendors and helpers at the pop-up event in Shoreditch © Harry Mitchell

“You are in a community here, as opposed to shopping in a store. It’s better,” said an 18-year-old competitor who had been in line for four hours at Stocked. “We take turns holding seats, visiting some other shops, so it’s all a social thing in a way,” says Maddie, 17, who has traveled with friends from Guilford. Others, like Ravi, 17, came alone and made new friends while waiting in line. “I’m from Italy, I’m on holiday here and I’m going back tomorrow. I never buy second-hand, but I’ve heard about it on TikTok,” he says.

Some, like Holly, 15, and Tyler, 18, are drawn to these events because of the opportunity to personally shop for second-hand and “not supporting fast fashion.” However, many are here to find pieces that are a little more unique than what can be found in the average high street store – and at more affordable prices, which can be up to 15 percent cheaper than online. Items on 2o2st cost between £15 and £300. At Stocked, which focuses heavily on the Y2K trend, t-shirts from brands like Stussy and Bape sell for around £35; Maharishi cargo pants cost around £135; and bags by Vivienne Westwood, Prada, Stussy and Emilio Pucci start at around £45. The more expensive items, like a small selection of Fendi monogram t-shirts and mini dresses, sell for up to £300.

A young girl with long hair stands smiling in a queue of other teenagers

“You are in a community when you are here, as opposed to buying in a store. It’s better,” said a buyer in line for Stocked © Harry Mitchell

A man in a gray t-shirt holds out a payment reader to a young customer in a t-shirt and baseball cap

Stocked co-founder Jack Harris (left) accepting payment © Harry Mitchell

The economic benefits are undeniable: Harris and Renshaw, who supply the largest shareholding, walked away after their weekend events with estimated profits of £10,000 each. After more than a year organizing pop-ups for others, Charalambides is launching her own brand and plans to bring 2o2st to Paris. Based on its success in London, Stocked will travel to other cities in the UK, with a possible Christmas event in Manchester and then in Bristol in the New Year.

“I look at this queue and it’s the satisfaction of seeing 10 or 20 that I’ve sold. This is mine,” says Renshaw, who just 18 months ago started selling second-hand Japanese denim and Year 2000 pieces through his online and Depop store Bounty Bodega. “I’m a student at the university and I have a part-time job. I don’t put in many hours of work, but when I’m sitting on my bed on my phone where other people would be consuming content, I’m talking to clients, creating content, and I enjoy doing that. So many people see your stuff, see the things you do, it’s very satisfying.”

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https://www.ft.com/content/705a18d2-9c1d-4237-af2d-ab01c8c76fa4 Teens are making thousands thanks to TikTok

Adam Bradshaw

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