How does an Internet giant like Fanatics shop the Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show? The secret of the company’s success is no secret at all, according to General Merchandising Manager John Sabo, who addressed a standing-room-only crowd here on Friday morning. “We try to get to every single booth and look at every single product,” he says. “All of our buyers, with the exception of a couple of college apparel buyers, are here. It’s all about bringing unique product to the consumer.”
Fanatics is one of the largest online retailers of licensed sports goods. The company achieved its leadership status by leaving no stone unturned and building relationships with vendors of all shapes and sizes. “We want to support the licensees in this business,” Sabo explains. “If you’ve done the work to get the license, it’s our responsibility to take a look at it…we have tremendous respect for that one guy with that one great idea, who went through the whole licensing process.”
Sabo’s advice for anyone hoping to do business with Fanatics is simple: Bring us great, innovative product. By the same token, he points out that just because Fanatics can buy everything and put it all up on the web, it “doesn’t mean we should.”
The women’s business and tailgating business have been very active for Fanatics in recent years. According to Sabo, much of the licensed product for women was “pretty boring” five years ago, but apparel companies have been doing a good job the last two years translating fit, fashion and graphics into more appealing product. The same, he says, is true of accessories.
As for tailgating and the emerging homegating category, Sabo sees enormous opportunity. “Anybody involved in a favorite team or event—wherever they do it—they can be tailgating,” he explains. “That’s how we think of the merchandising piece of it.”
The morning seminar, which was moderated by licensing industry veteran Brian Hakan, concluded in time for attendees to do some quick networking before the show floor opened. Sabo invited anyone to stop him in the aisles if they had a follow-up question. Be careful what you wish for, John!