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The Boot Cycle

Ian Ebbs

Ciaran from The Boot Cycle tells us how they got involved in the supply of nearly new and old football boots to the public in this episode, buying and selling recycled boots.

Listen to Our Interview with Ciaran

Each edition of The Football Boots Show, sees us looking inside the boot industry, as we talk to designers, brands, resellers and collectors, about the latest releases and everything going on with football boots. Here we talk to Ciaran from The Boot Cycle about recycling boots! Read the full transcript of the show below.

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Boot Cycle Instagram: @thebootcycle

Full Transcript Football Boots x The Boot Cycle Interview

Hi guys, Ian from Football Boots team and today I’m joined by Ciaran from The Boot Cycle. And we’re going to be talking about recycling your football boots and buying new and old boots.

Ciaran, how are you doing?

Yeah, I’m good. I’m good. Thank you Ian for having me on.

No worries. Good to have you on.

So why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you do?

Yeah, so I’m the owner of The Boot Cycle, so I started this page of about about a year ago really now. And it kind of follows the process of with everything going on to kind of get your football boots recycled rather than throwing them away, you know, spending money on such an expensive boot. So we kind of offer the service of not also selling boots, but also buying boots. We’ll take boots from the customers, try and upgrade them, make sure they’re in the best conditions possible, and then sell them on those customers again. So we kind of follow that cycle of offering, you know, a product that could have been going to waste and giving it that second life really.

That’s pretty cool, really. I mean, there’s a lot of kind of focus on recycling and reusing things nowadays. You see a lot of the brands are doing like football shirts made out of old plastic water bottles and things like that. So it’s good to see football boots kind of getting a good lifespan because sometimes people want to-like Ronaldo, Messi, they’ll be onto the latest colourway after like two games or something, you know, so it’s good that people can kind of get a different colourway but the boot still gets some some use out of them, you know.

Yeah, I think I think that’s what really came to light when a lot of people have been playing around at a school level, be, you know, at that stage where you just breaking in to the first team with professional club someone when you see young players go through boots, you know, quicker than the weeks go by, it’s important really to try and think of a way that these could be this could be saved. So I think it kind of offers a solution where, you know, I think that there is someone with pages that I’ve started doing it now as well, you know, boots are getting thrown away. And I think, like you say, in the current climate, that’s such a huge emphasis.

Yeah you know, it’s really good.

So why do you think there is that market for the recycled boots? I mean, obviously you just talk to a little bit there, but do you think it comes down to price or people wanting to like, as you say, reuse things, like what do you think is really driving it?

Yeah, I think I think there’s a variety of factors, really. I mean, I think the first instance that really appealed to me is I’ve always kind of gone with the mood of, you know, using the likes of eBay, the likes of Depot, to get second-hand boots. The fact that you know, your top-tier boots now, they can range from 200 to 250 pounds, especially for a top Nike or adidas model. And I think the appeal of having to pay that when you can get a pair which has been worn once, twice, for naturally the value just slashes as soon as you do that. I think the appeal of still getting the highest quality boot when you’re not paying the, you know, the highest price, I think that was really a big appeal.

So I think most people, you know that they demand the best quality boot. So people want to be wearing the exact same boots that your Ronaldos and your Messis are wearing. But if you don’t want to splash out with 230 pounds, you end up with the lower tier models. And I think that really doesn’t appeal to people as much to be wearing boots that is at best underdogs. So I think that’s been a huge driving factor in, you know, almost providing that outlet for where our sales are driven.

Yeah, nice, very good.

So you’ve been doing it. I say, how long have you been doing it now?

Yes, we’ve been operating now just over a year. So it was kind of, I’d say, we’re coming into May now so it’s been about a year and a month. But I’d say once lockdown kind of hit last year in England with coronavirus I thought, I mean, I kind of, I’ve always worked kind of within this kind of sector of footwear. I’d previously done stuff with reselling. So with, you know, Yeezys, with Supreme. I thought of trying to switch to something I was more passionate about. So I’ve always kind of been that person to get a load of football boots and then sell on the last pair. So I was thinking, is there a way to go about it? And then originally, to be fair, we were going to call the page ‘Second Life Boots’, but only ’til the last minute, the domain was nearly registered, it was only ’til the last minute we were, we had a bit of a change of mind. We’re like, I think the ‘Boots Cycle’ suits better. So it was kind of. Yeah. It’s been in development and in process now for over a year. So it’s operated really well.

Really good.

So do you play football yourself?

Yeah, not to the to the competitive standard that I’d like to but I’ve, I’ve played football since I was six or seven, so I play. Football is always been huge to me. I mean I’ve grew up in Liverpool as a United fan so I’ve taken a fair bit of sticks since I’ve grown up but especially recently until, until this season. But yeah, now I’ve always I’ve always played football from from a young age. I think when I was about 14, 15, I got involved in futsal as well. So I played varieties of it now. Football has always been a huge part. So I normally play just just on the wing or right back phase. I was always into my boots when I was playing football. It was I think I’m trying to remember what the first pair I really, really got. I remember there was a pair of the F50 and Messi edition that I had. They were one of my personal favourites and then I was always into my Mecurials, all these great colours when I was when I was little. So I’ve gone through a pair of few of the boots, to be fair. But yeah, I’m I’m a massive fan of football. I love playing.

I suppose that’s the good thing with recycled boots and things like that is you get to try like a lot more boots, like you could find out if what boots suit you, and then maybe you might go buy a brand new pair eventually. But at least you’ve given that, you had a chance to try out Mercurial or whatever else it happens to be because you couldn’t get that entry into it a bit cheaper and then you could sell them on again and try something else again.

Do you get people coming back to you who like wear a boot for a while, then sell it back to you and go to something else?

Yeah, that’s I think that’s something that’s really resonated well with me, is the fact that we do get people who buy the boots, they’ll use them a bit and then they’ll come back to us and we’ll see what we can do to restore them. And and the other thing is we have a lot of people on the page who follow it to buy boots, offers to the other store in order to change the soleplate. So, we can take boots in a variety of conditions, albeit the price may be lower. And so people can still, you know, do them up themselves. So we take a lot of variety of boots. But the other thing you get, which is always great to see, is someone will buy a pair of boots off the site and then they’ll sell you your old pair. And that’s I think that’s kind of the mission really is to to complete the full cycle. So the people that not just buying pair just have loads of pair sitting around. You know, people like you kind of start. I think that’s definitely been a big change since the past couple of months. There’s been a big change in initiative with people who would’ve been buying football boots with straight offers and then within a matter of weeks you get a message saying O’ I’ve got this old pair now. I bought this pair of you. Can I sell the old pair to you?

And I think that’s great because he realised that he knows stuff isn’t going to waste because especially for us, it’s always a win-win because we can offer that the solution of quick cash for something that you would just have sitting around. And in return, you get in, you know, getting the boots off your hands. I think that’s been a big thing. But we’ve definitely in the in the last few months try to, you know, almost emphasise the shift to a bigger variety of boots. And we we got a pair of the limited edition, Purecontrols, with the gold versions. We try to almost provide a range of boots. I think initially we just try to take boots off anyone for as cheap as possible. But we see now that the market for just nearly new boots, boots that been worn once or twice, you know, they lose the value so great that the market in them is significant. So we try to almost provide a massive variety. But we are definitely in the stage of just increasing our supply as we go.

So you talked about having worn, like, a lot of mercurials and you had that old pair of Messi F50s. What would you say is your, like, favourite boot?

I’d say the favourite boot like ever, the one I’ve always been after was one when I was younger, and I think I’ve got it over there. I can go get it if you want. It’s the T90 model, the green silhouette. So this this is the boot literally when I was younger, I just couldn’t find anywhere and I eventually found it.

The green with the red on it?

Yeah. Do you want me to go get them? Yeah. A little bit tarnished. They are size four or five. And literally these are the only boot really I’ve kept since I was a kid. I was just absolutely love this and I don’t know what it was about when I was younger I was, I was really into my bright boots. I’m not I’m not sure why I’m quite embarrassed about bright boots now or bright yellow boots. And but when I was younger, I absolutely loved them boots. I’ll always be the one to get them taken out and get a new pair of boots for no reason at all. But now, to be fair, the T90s are definitely one of my all time favourites. I’d say I’d say at the moment I currently wear the Phantom VNMs. I was having the blue colourway and I will literally wear them until they’ve been beaten to the ground. I absolutely love the Phantoms. I just think the way they fail is huge. I think I think the other thing was I’m not sure if you’re aware. I feel like the the ankle boot phase, especially for Nike, is starting to almost deteriorate. I don’t know about yourself.

Yeah. It seems like it’s a little bit less popular than it was before and just seems to be moving on. Yeah.

Yeah. See, I think I’ve had that same image. For best reselling boots, you see a lot more people after the lower silhouette now with instead of the the ankle boot version I think. Especially four years ago, I was all over the ankle boots. That was, that was an awe for me. But I think it’s definitely been a big shift now that people much prefer the lower grip and less support on the ankle.

Yes.

All right, so next question was like, you kind of recycle, is it like the older boots, you talk about, say, the T90s, that’s kind of going back a bit, do you find that people are recycling like those much older boots, like there’s more classic ones? Or is it more of like the modern ones that people are just recycling, like, more?

Yeah, I’d say I’d say as a company, we kind of almost place an emphasis on on trying to kind of keep up-to-date boots. Not not brand new models, but we kind of have a shift towards new boots. I notice some pages out there that will emphasise on classic boots. And when they get recycled, they’ll do the mopping, etc. I think just as an individual I don’t have the expertise of all the predator models or other models that almost, you know, market them. I think some of those that some of the remakes literally sell for so much. It’s it’s a it’s a great market to be in. But I think my almost area of expertise lies more in the in the newer models, you know. As much as we also do about the opportunity to, when we’re buying, you know, eight or nine pair of one individual and they’ve got a pair predators or an older pair of T90s I definitely take them on the spot, it was more you know, we’re not as instructed on what we should sell them. I don’t think we are as aware in that instance of the approach that they’re in it. So we try and stay away from that market for the people who are more skilled in it.

But say it was the Magista model, for example. That’s a model I can spoke about. That is another beautiful boot in my opinion. And I think say it was a pair of the yellow Magistas, the old boots, the OG colourway, I’d snap them straight away. I think when when you start going back to 2000 to 2007, 2008, then I’m starting to I’m not as aware in those instances. I I pass the bar. So we yeah. We definitely trying to place a shift towards the newer, you know, 2011, 2012 boots to 2021 boots. And yet again the problem you’ve got is with the people you’re supplying from. It’s your own people. It’s your customers. You don’t want to offend them with a price that you know you can’t make any money on. So sometimes it’s just a matter of saying as much as I love the boot you best sell it elsewhere because I don’t want to offend you with this kind of offer. So your supply also can depend massively on the price that your customers often the boots do you for.

Yes. Yeah. It depends on their expectations I suppose.

Yeah exactly. And say a customer bought a pair of boots from Prodirect and they’re not sure whether to return them or to send them on. Often in these instances, we’ll we’ll just be brutally honest and say, look, your best return them because for us to buy them off you and then create margin to sell them again, it wouldn’t be fair on yourself. So, yeah, it’s a matter of just being honest, really.

Did you have any kind of like plans for the future? Like, what are you what’s what’s your next step?

Yeah, I think I think currently we’re at a really critical stage really. I think obviously we’ve done a year of trading now, so we’ve kind of got the work as we got previous figures to compare sales to, we got we got processes. I think there’s a few a few steps really we want to do. We got, we’re in the process now of trying to find a football team to sponsor. So I think, almost just giving back to the community and also trying to get your name out there as well. So it’s almost a matter of just looking for a suitable football team that, you know, would probably one that is a local team I would have played for in the past is. This kind of the idea. I know when I was younger, it was the same approach. You’d reach out and you’d support younger teams. So I think that in terms of where the sponsorship is one of the ways we’re looking to go forward.

And then obviously what we’re trying to improve our media profile, we’re trying to get the page out there more now. I know there’s a few different outlets. Currently, you know, the business operates in Belfast. So I’m in Liverpool at the moment. We’ve got my friend Joe who’s doing a brilliant job organising and getting the stock out and and supporting the sport in the business. So I think the plan realistically would be to get get an almost office, you know, scale up the size. And I think currently there’s about 70, 70 pairs, 60 pairs on the website. And we’ve been we’ve been hammered with orders the last week, especially with it being pay day. So the plan really is to scale it from there. And the plan has always been to have a certain volume of stock in a set amount of products. So just kind of scale it up and hopefully towards the season when the the boot festival is almost, you know, the the in-store markets where you can get a table, you can get all your boots on. I notice a few that that run around Liverpool. Kind of start always trying to open as many sales channels as possible, I think.

We’ve been we’ve been lucky. We’ve gained good engagement with our audience. I mean, we always try and try and keep that open. I think if we can start improving the plans to go and take time to sponsor, do the right things and then eventually you’re looking at a two year, three year span, the ultimate goal will be to get almost a pop up shop and then straight into a rented shop and kind of go from there. But the thing is it all comes with scalability and also commitment. I mean, I also work as well, which is why Joe’s Joe’s come in and he’s done a cracking job. We got Scruffy as well who does the delivery. He’s just doing a brilliant job. So I think if we can kind of keep the scalability open and this other lad as well that work on the team, Cormak, for example, if we can get that scalability to grow the business, it is a huge aspect really.

Yeah, cool. Sounds very good.

So you talked about like when people send you the boots and stuff, what kind of condition do they come in? Do you get them like, do they come ready and stuff? You have to clean them or do they come clean?

I’d say each boot has its own preferences. I mean, we’ve had boots literally been sent in a bag of mud. And you look at them and you think this is going to be a long day. And you can get boots, pristine condition. And it’s unbelievable. Some of the some of the boots that gets in, you just look at them and think, well. The problem is, as well, a lot of the best boots, I can’t sit and show you my job because they sell straight away. So you see a boot that’s absolutely cracking. And you put it on the website, and boom, it’s gone. And I think tha that always sound as, you want to keep your stock as high as possible but it’s not a bad problem to have, really, is it? That’s always a say but I’d say, yeah.

We’ve been lucky as well to reach out with a few companies and I don’t know if you ever spoke to Boot Buddy. He’s been he’s been brilliant. He’s helped us out. And we’ve got a couple of products of him. So they always go through the extensive the extensive cleaning of, you know, there’s like a special foam we can use to take off a lot of the mud and a lot of the marks. And you would genuinely be surprised how much dirt and stuff you can getoff boots. Most of the time if there is in off the boots it’s matter of it’s not worth trying to take off and all mud exactly can be taken off. And then you just come down to getting the marks and scratches off from playing on Astroturf, for example, with the fact that the soleplate weighs. Literally just a change of studs and the boots can make a hell of a difference. So I think I think once you can once you get a process, I mean, we use a variety of different cleaner methods. But once you can kind of get that nailed on, a lot of the boots can really be looking swift and spar. I think the way I see it is, you know, there’s a few methods we’ve picked up now how to get rid of the odour that some people can lead the boots to leave back. That again can be removed.

And I think I think the difference as well. And I know I know it was an earlier point we raised. But I think the difference between second hand football boots and what makes them so unique is that with second hand shoes, etc. some people do keep shoes in pristine condition or trainers like uses a pristine condition. But as soon as you take your shoes onto the football pitch they getting used straight away. So whether you get a pair and use two weeks, then there’s going to be no difference to what would happen, if you will, for two weeks. So you’d then be valuing, are these two weeks of wearing a brand new worth I pay an extra pound and I think that’s a critical factor really in the use of used boots.

You know, I think you’re totally right.

I was going to ask you about the smell. So that’s a…

Yeah, it’s, we have to invest in a lot of a lot of storage really. We use a lot of those the shoe boxes that you see these days where that, you know, you can open the door and slot them in. We use, we use a lot about now, sometimes just a gigantic goal of boot sport that is doing a tremendous job of getting rid of the smell. But I now, especially, early goers last year when I was operating in my bedroom, I had just a small light storage rack. I was just racking many boots on today as possible. Yeah, you did after, you know, used to a lot to the smell that was unbearable at some point. But I definitely, definitely now I think with the new method, with the new ways of storing it and new ways of cleaning it, I think as soon as you introduced that one and approaches to the boots and I was about to go spray etc., it makes a hell of a difference. So that’s been a that’s been a huge aspect, really.

Great.

So, I mean, you’re saying like maybe like 100 pounds, like cheaper or whatever. What’s what’s kind of like a typical kind of price of the recycle boot compared to like a to a brand new one then?

Yeah, I’d say the typical the typical price varies, I mean, all average order value is probably about 70, 80 pounds. And so you’re looking at, I’d say, 95 percent of the boots we sell are Elite-tier boot. They got ACC, the .1, the adidas + model. So I’d say that every boot we sell would normally be Elite. And that’s looking at eighty five, 90 pounds. I mean, we have had recently some new models which are yet to call them new would be a lie, let’s call them used would also be a lie. They’re kind of that condition that they’re like new. And they’d sell for about 150. But then again that’s 70, 30 pounds off the retail price. Now last week a pair of Mecurials sold, elite elite standard and they sold about 70 pound condition was relatively good as well. And they would have been two hundred and forty pounds new.

So a lot of the instances you like, it’s a very it’s a very good discount. You get you get you know, I often find myself just keeping a few pairs and then realising ‘Alright I need to sell this Ciaran.’ And or sometimes when when again offered these boots, some of the prices of some of the customers often as well is tremendous. I mean, we do also use a few a few of ways of getting boots. I mean, you just kind of build on that reputation once you start a page. OK, someone needs that boots on you. We got that position now. You just get the message out and do these. But yeah, I definitely say, like, you’re looking towards like 50 to 100 pounds of the retail price. And I know that doesn’t mean the boot is going to be something I’ve had a condition straight out of the box, but you’re going to be in a much better in financial position. So it’s like I’m well, I mean, there’s no emphasis on people who want it. I completely understand. There’s nothing bad on a brand new pair of boots, it’s it’s almost trying to fit in that niche gap of people who love the Elite, but they won’t going to pay the price.

Yeah. Fair Enough.

What do you think,you had like a really, like, iconic pair of boots that some of these sold to you and then gone on sold by what what’s the most iconic pair of boots you had come through is?

As in a boot from like a professional?

No, just like just a real, like stand out boot, you know, that somebody is like sold to you and you could have been like, I can’t believe they’re selling these. And then you you sold them on or whatever, you know. Is there anything that stands out?

Yeah, I’d say I’d say this time last year. Well we had one recently to be fair. We had all white literally triple white Mercurials. And they were like Elite tier. And they were unbelievable. They were they were so nice and as soon as I listed them down they sold. I’d say last year, we were lucky to get a pair of the classic T90 Lasers, and the Nike Magista Obras, the yellow ones. And we got both of them off the same guy for ridiculous price. And that is outside Goodison Park, which is quite, quite a feat. And they they sold instantly. But they were lovely boots. There’s some that you do sit there and you just you just don’t want to let go. I think we’ve had we’ve had a couple of pairs of the Predator Manias that we’ve sold pretty very quickly. I’m surprised to be fair, the limited edition pair we got now of the Purecontrol forward silo would be an old gold boots, it’s been 11 years. There’s not many centre halfs that want to wear old gold boots, you know. So that’s to be expected, really. But yeah, I think that’s the main approach.

I think any Phantom boot will fly. Literally every single Phantom boot we put on the website was out pretty quickly. I say that’s the most common one. But yeah, we’ve had a lot of a lot of good boots come through. We’ve had a few from some some ex footballers. And what pair did we get recently? And we had the triple gold like gold and blue Purecontrols. I’d say the other boot that, I mean, do you remember the first pair of adidas laceless boots?

Green.

Yeah, we had a pair of them. I’ve not seen boots in such good condition, considering the age. They just flew literally. They were unbelievable. They were the boots, to be fair, that I thought was was really nice. But yeah. No, I’d say a lot of them. I’m not sure we’ve given enough examples there, really. But yeah, that’s that’s just a variety of them. It’s top of my head to think of, that’s definitely one that stand out.

Is there one pair of boots that’s been like the most expensive that you’ve sold? Like is there like?

Yeah, I’d say to be fair, it’s not fairly outstanding because of the way we kind of operate. We, we, we have a pair of Nike ID boots that would sold. They would cost nice. They sold for about two hundred pounds. And then we had a couple of pairs of Mercurials that I’ve sold for about what, 180 or 190. I think we we’ve had instances where we’ve had orders of 600, 700 pounds, which is like I don’t even get themselves out of the whole family out. We have other instances like, I’d say, yeah, we kind of always approach the margin of of of quantity. Obviously, it’d be tremendous if we could get massive order values but the general order value is 80, 80 to 90 pounds. It’s it’s not and it’s about just getting it’s the process of us, if you excuse the pun, the cycle. I mean, the quicker we perform a cycle, the more boots in circulation, the more our boots out. So it’s it’s a moment of a mass mass approach really.

Yeah, nice. Very nice.

So what’s the best way for people to get hold of you if they’re interested in getting hold of some boots or sending you some boots?

Yeah, I’d say there’s been there’s been a huge emphasis on the Instagram. That is obviously where a lot of success comes from. I think a lot of businesses now and startup would use Instagram. And it’s a brilliant tool, what you can do. And I know I think your page’s unbelievable, the followers it’s got. I think Instagram is probably the best way. I mean, obviously that’s my aim to be most responsive, etc. So it’s always a great outlet. And then we have placed a huge emphasis into the design and development of our of our website. So that is we charge merchants every single orders quite possible through the website. So that I think our website is doing well. It’s quite easy to understand. So yeah, we we often utilise that and we have obviously the email contact, et cetera. But I’d say Instagram 100 percent is is the best way to have a look at a preview, but also just have a browse through the website. I mean, there’s there’s a variety of boots on there. There’s bits of information how to sell your boots, etc. So I think the website really we’ve always had a strong emphasis on, you know, building the brand. And I’m not sure, obviously, we would have been early goers, but with the blue theme, with the blue in the blocks, blue in the white, as you’ve done with the orange and black, we’ve tried to kind of place an emphasis on that really to be to be the starting foundations of the brand.

Yeah nice.

So your Instagram handle is @thebootcycle?

Yeah. So just just nice and simple T-H-E boot cycle @thebootcycle. And then the website is just thebootcycle.co.uk. So we try to kind of almost keep everything in line and we you Google it now. I don’t know if it’s the same across the world, but I know in England level it should come off fast and faster results. So yeah, that’s the contact details.

Yeah. Great. Fantastic. All right. Well, thanks very much for joining us, guys. Go check out the website. Go check out the Instagram.

Thank you. And thank you Ian for having me. It’s been an absolute pleasure. I believe we we can stay in touch.

Yeah, no worries. Thanks very much.

Cheers, thank you.

Author

Ian Ebbs

Founder of FootballBoots.co.uk back in 2010, Ian went on to create and host their YouTube channel which now has 1.5million subscribers and over 300 million views, he also hosts their podcast which you can find on Spotify. Taking his over fifteen year experience in the football industry, Ian wrote the book: How To Choose Your Boots (find it on Amazon) where he looks to help footballers of all levels find their perfect pair.