When Arthur and Henry D’Angelo founded the company that is now ’47 — in 1947, of course — it was no more than a small-time knick-knack and pendant-selling operation near Boston’s Fenway Park.
Almost 70 years later, ’47 is one of the most prestigious licensed apparel and headwear brands in the United States, boasting agreements with the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and more than 650 colleges.
As a company that has been around before the advent of modern licensing terms and agreements, ’47 provides has a unique perspective on how far the sports licensing industry has come.
Today, the company is run by second-generation D’Angelo family members. SportsFan Retailer caught up with co-owner Steven D’Angelo to speak about the evolution of sports licensing, trending apparel categories, challenges that events like the Super Bowl present and more.
SFR: How did ‘47 go about getting into the sports licensing business, and when did that happen?
D’Angelo: At that time, they actually had a local license for the Boston Red Sox, so they could bring in all sorts of products and sell it in their store. At that time you didn’t need a license to sell to stadiums, so in the ’70s they went over to Taiwan and started to import baseball caps. They started hustling them around stadiums. Then licensing started to change a little bit, so we formalized our relationships with the NBA and with Major league Baseball in the ’70s.
SFR: Is ’47 working on any new licensing deals right now?
D’Angelo: Right now, the NBA and the NHL both have deals [with us] that are up; and there are new deals that are coming up in 2017, so we are in the process of trying to get those right. Our NFL deal ends this year, so we’ve started negotiating a deal for 2017. So three out of the five [major sports leagues] are sort of [expiring] the same exact year, so this is a time where we’re heavily in negotiations, trying to get deals for 2017.
SFR: Can you speak to some of the challenges of going through new licensing agreements?
D’Angelo: Well there’s a major consolidation going on in the industry and you sort of have to be best-in-class in categories like business and channels of distribution to be in a position to get [licensing] rights. So that’s the beauty of ’47 right now. We are the only current player that has headwear, apparel and socks in every league (excluding the NBA in socks). We’re the only company out there that can tell a head-to-toe story in most every channel of distribution.
SFR: What are some apparel categories that you see trending for ‘47?
D’Angelo: We just got into socks last year — in the NFL, in Major League Baseball, in the NHL and in major colleges. So that went from nothing to a real business overnight. The knit category continues to grow; we had a little blip because of the weather, but that’s representing a higher percentage of our business than ever before. It’s not just your basic knit, it’s fashion knits. It’s $20-$35 knits that is really where the business is right now in the category.
SFR: How does the Super Bowl affect sales, especially in the two weeks leading up to the event?
D’Angelo: The Super Bowl is really a unique, cool event, and the two teams haven’t been there in a long time, so it’s a real hot-market situation. As soon as those teams are picked [each year] and we know who they are, we’re going to be busy making all different types of caps and apparel [for both teams] and it’s significant.