While the licensed sports product industry has been shown to be strong and significant in terms of sales and appeal, the element of fickleness produces an inherent double-edged sword for retailers who otherwise can thrive off catering to fans.
The hot-and-cold nature of fans’ relationships with their teams is ubiquitous at the retail level. When a specific player or team is doing well, anything and everything embellished with their name or logo sells well — and quickly. Team losses or slumping player performances, however, means retail sales can suffer equally as swiftly.
But what could be at the peak of the frustration meter is when a prominent and popular player unexpectedly gets traded, benched, cut, waived, decides to retire, or is suspended or arrested for an off-the-field transgression. Such occurrences usually mean retailers may be left with excess and overpriced product because consumer demand evaporates.
What’s a retailer to do in these situations? There are multiple solutions, including a little creativity, some common sense and preventive inventory management — among other things — to help lessen the impact to your bottom line.
- Look for opportunities to conduct merchandising in a way that promotes items as memorabilia or nostalgic pieces.
- Use caution when ordering from suppliers. Start with smaller quantities, then order more later.
- Order from suppliers with domestic production capabilities. This can shorten lead times and providing greater inventory flexibility.
- Pay attention to athletes’ contracts and playing careers, and lower quantities for veteran players.
- Add novelty items to your product mix that aren’t affiliated with specific players.
- Include products that appeal to fast-growing demographics, like women and children.
- If located in a collegiate market, diversify your product mix to appeal to fans who have more of a team focus.
- Repurpose products — such as caps — and sell where appropriate.
Mike May is a Wellington, Fla.-based freelance sports writer, veteran high school soccer official and high school basketball coach, and experienced sporting goods industry publicist. For more information or to comment on this article, email Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.