Latest issue
Online newsletter
Product Knowledge
Team wear | Replica | what sells
January 2015

Team kits vs replicas:

Which is the most profitable?

While international retailers make millions from selling replica shirts, most South African retailers find that it is more beneficial to sell team kit than replica shirts. JOHANN DU TOIT looks at the pros and cons of stocking team kit vs replica

Deciding what amount of shelf space needs to be dedicated to a product category is often a difficult decision that a retailer needs to make. The deciding factor is often which product will generate the most profit per space occupied. In the case of team kit clothing or replica clothing, it is often difficult to decide which product will give the highest income per centimetre shelf space.

Team kits are usually sold to an entire team in one go. In the case of rugby teams, full kits for 15 players, plus reserves, often need to be purchased. Therefore, a retailer can sell much more team kit at one time than replica jerseys, which are purchased individually. Team kit can therefore be more lucrative to give shelf space to, even though individual replica jerseys are much more expensive per item.

It is therefore no surprise that 61.5% of the retailers responding to our snap survey say that selling team kit is more profitable for them, even though replica jerseys are much more expensive than individual team jerseys.

A locally manufactured full kit set for a soccer team would sell for about R1 600, while a team set from a recognised brand could cost as much as R6 000 per team set. Compared to that, a replica jersey for a local soccer team would sell for between R499-599, but international replica jerseys (e.g. Manchester United, Chelsea, etc.) would sell for between R750-900. A retailer therefore has to sell two to three replica shirts for the price of one team set sold to a local team.

There might, however, be a limited number of amateur teams playing in the area, while a very popular pro team may generate many replica jersey sales. Therefore, close to 40% of the retailers contacted said that they find it more profitable to sell replica.

Biggest kit sales

Our retail respondents indicated that a store focusing more on sports fashion will sell more replicas, while independent sports stores will be more likely to sell more team kits.

Nearly two-thirds (60%) of the retailers responding to our snap survey say that they sell more team kit than replica. The demand for team kit is relatively constant, especially when you sell to schools, as growing athletes will regularly require new team kit, especially as they progress to the top teams that wear different jerseys. It is therefore relatively easy to predict what kind of sales figures one can expect when selling to the teams in your area.

There are about 10 000-68 000 grassroots soccer clubs in South Africa, each one needing at least one team kit. Excluding school teams and unregistered clubs, there are at the very least 150 000-1 000 000 players playing at club level. It is therefore again no surprise that 60% of the retailers say that they sell the most team kit to soccer teams.

For rugby, IRB figures show there are just under half a million registered rugby players in South Africa — all requiring team kits. More than 300 000 of these players are still at school and nearly 18 000 are women. This represents nearly 31 000 registered amateur rugby teams, all needing team jerseys, shorts and socks.

Yet, only 30% of the retailers we contacted say that rugby is the sport that they sell the most kit for.

Even though netball is the most popular sport among women of all age and race groups (see p46), with around 1.95 million adult and junior players in South Africa, representing about 195 000 teams, retailers did not indicate that they sell many netball team kits. Although 80% of the respondents do sell netball team kit, the demand for soccer, rugby and even cricket is higher.

Locally manufactured

Among local manufacturers of team kits, however, netball kits are selling well. Manufacturers such as American Man Sportswear, Kevro and Mike Sport all indicate that netball is one of their top two sellers, with soccer kit sales in the lead.

Most local manufacturers of team wear make kits for soccer, netball, rugby, hockey and cricket — and sell the most kits in the same order. More than half of the retailers (56%) indicated that they don’t actually stock team kit, but that they sell team kits ordered from a catalogue supplied by local manufacturers.

Kevro supplies such a catalogue to their retail customers twice a year, featuring their various sports brands under the BRT label (see p2). “We are a trade only supplier,” says Martin Ferreira, “but the demand is mainly from school and clubs ordering from our retail customers via our catalogue.”

The biggest demand is for their soccer (Acelli) and netball (Sevenn) team kit, followed by rugby (Brutal), and then BRT teamwear for cricket, hockey and athletics.

Most local manufacturers say they mainly sell team kits in standard colours and styles, ordered from catalogues, and retailers can also order imported ranges from brands like adidas, Nike, Kappa and Puma in standard colours and sizes from their catalogues.

This is the fastest and least expensive way to manufacture kits because orders are done in bulk, explains Shahin Lalla of American Man Sportswear, who specializes in soccer and netball kit under the Premier label.

They have a very large customer base, who enjoy the fast lead times and good prices they can offer by having stock in standard colours and styles available.

This doesn’t mean that personalised sales consulting is not important to customers wanting to purchase team kits, though. “A key element of our team kit business is the walk-in or telesale client, who gets personalized service from our skilled sales consultants,” says Imtiaz Karodia from Solly M Sports, a major supplier of soccer kit.

Their popular imported in-house Fury range is supplied in standard colours and sizes from their catalogue, and they also have a locally manufactured Fury range, which they can customise. “We can offer sizes and styles as per our clients’ request in quick turnaround time,” he says.

There is also a big demand for wholesale stock from other retailers and service providers. “Due to us carrying large amounts of stock, we can supply tenders for even 200 sets of kit overnight with complete branding of logos and numbers printed.”

The highest demand for team kits comes from schools and local teams. This is due to the large number of players in younger age groups.

Schools and clubs often want individual designs, says Eijvind Vlok from Hawk Sportswear, who find that most of the school and local club teams that order kit from him, want individual designs.

His customers want a combination of individual designs, as well as standard styles and colours from a catalogue, says Mike Augostides of Mikes Sports.

They supply team kit for soccer, netball, rugby and cricket from stock, says Gary Baker of LGB Distributors, but make hockey kit to order, as the demand is not so high. They mainly supply ex-stock, “but we also make bespoke for certain clubs and schools, depending on units required.”

Kit from brands

The level of the team that orders kit also plays a major role in how team wear will be ordered. A sponsored team, like the Stormers or Sharks, will have their special designs custom made, explains Paul Corbelarri from Genuine Connection, who makes the rugby team kit for some of these high level teams.

They do, however, also manufacture rugby shirts with individual designs for school and club teams, he adds.

But, even some well-known international brands known for their replica, sell more team kit than replica jerseys — for example, Canterbury, which nowadays supplies more team kit to clubs and schools than replica jerseys, says Evert Ferreira of local supplier Brand ID.

Kappa offers soccer clubs and schools the online Kappa4Team service, from where they can order kit and off-field clothing by clicking on the styles, colours and sizes they want. Although Kappa SA “sell a good mixture of replica and kit, our core, or main business, is general team kit sales,” says local distributor Ricky Joseph.

Replicas sales

An equal number of retailers (40%) report that they sell rugby as well as soccer replica, even though there are many more soccer supporters in South Africa than rugby supporters. This is most likely due to the cost of replica jerseys, as your typical rugby supporter is more likely to be able to afford a replica jersey, while the average soccer supporter might not. A replica jersey can cost between R500 and R700, making them a significant purchase for most South Africans.

Even though netball is such a popular sport in South Africa, netball replica sales are practically non-existent. This is most likely due to it not being a big spectator sport.

A few retailers indicated that cricket replica shirts are also very popular, while cricket team kits are not in very high demand.

The issue of fake replicas is also of big concern, as a supporter might be more inclined to purchase a cheaper rip-off than the much more expensive official branded one. In order to combat this, several brands offer take-down supporters jerseys, caps, T-shirts and other accessories at a price that most fans who want to show their support can afford.

Musgrave Agencies, for example, supply Springbok supporters wear and accessories under license, as well as supporters gear for Super 15 teams like the Stormers, Sharks, Lions, Cheetahs and Bulls.

Replica success

While a retailer roughly knows how many schools and clubs will order team kit from him per season, replica sales are largely dependent on the performance of the team. A successful team usually translates into a successful brand.

For example, in the lead up to the final when the Springboks won the 2007 IRB World Cup, retailers were fast running out of Springbok jersey stock — while retailers in France, where the World Cup was played, could hardly give their All-Black jerseys away after New Zealand was knocked out of the tournament.

This makes predicting replica sales figures, and ordering stock, very tough.

“Springbok rugby is one of the biggest sporting brands in South Africa,” says Sarah Mundy, marketing manager for ASICS SA. “The iconic 1995 RWC win during such an emotional time in South Africa left a massive emotional imprint on all South Africans.” The brand will therefore always have strong appeal — from fans worldwide.

Retailers report a marked increase in Springbok replica sales after the team had won. It is as if fans then want to show their support, even after the game.

Although results are the most important factor for generating large fan bases, a team can also become popular if it plays in an appealing way. For example, the Johannesburg based Lions rugby team are gaining popularity due to their aggressive attacking style and success in recent Currie Cup matches. “It’s all about the teams’ results and brand of rugby they play”, says Ferreira from Brand ID, manufacturers of Lions rugby replica shirts.

Because a replica jersey is something you can wear as an everyday piece of clothing, the look and style of it also plays an important role for a customer deciding to buy it or not. Part of the reason why the Bulls rugby team replica shirts sell so well is because they look so good, says James Mullen, Head of Performance for their kit supplier Puma SA. “It's a combination of great stylish kit design as well as the fact that the Bulls are one of the most successful and well supported teams in SA,” she says.

Shirts from the Super 15 teams like the Sharks (from BLK), Stormers (adidas) and Bulls (Puma) sell well countrywide, report retailers, while other teams such as the Cheetahs (Puma) and Lions (Canterbury) will have a much more locally based appeal.

Soccer replica

When it comes to sales, the highest demand from South African customers is for replica shirts for local soccer teams (according to 33% of retailers), followed by the demand for local rugby teams and Springbok shirts (22% of retailers). Few retailers (11%) reported a high demand for cricket franchise replica, while none did well from netball replica, despite the introduction of the netball league.

In soccer, replica shirts for PSL teams like Kaizer Chiefs (Nike) and Orlando Pirates (adidas) with huge supporter bases are by far the most popular sellers. Chiefs reportedly have more than 14-m supporters, belonging to 300 supporters' branches. It is estimated that they are supported by about a third of South Africans, followed by Orlando Pirates, supported by about a quarter of the population.

Most South African PSL teams nowadays have sponsors that provide replica shirts for fans.

Bloemfontein Celtic replica shirts sell well because “they are an extremely well supported club with a large fan base,” says Joseph.

Kappa SA also supplies replica shirts for Telkom Knockout champions Supersport United, as well as Amazulu and Bidvest Wits.

Nike also supplies Mamelodi Sundowns and adidas Ajax Cape Town supporters wear. Puma provides Moroka Swallows replica, while Umbro is the technical supplier for Mpumalanga Black Aces, Ama Tuks and Maritzburg United. Local brand Acelli, available from Kevro, is the technical sponsor for Platinum Stars and Polokwane City.

International soccer clubs, especially teams based in England, also sell many replicas in South Africa, even though they are generally more expensive — around R800, as opposed to the R500-600 that a local jersey would cost. The biggest demand for replica shirts in his store are Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Chelsea, reported a retail respondent, although shirts of most of the popular international teams are sold locally.

Many retailers stock both replica shirts as well as team kits, as the markets for these two products are somewhat different. Deciding how much store space to devote to these two products will depend on a variety of factors, such as the type of store you are operating, the type of sport you are focusing on, how many sports teams are in your area and how successful some sports teams are in a season. Ultimately the decision will be different for each individual retailer.

*Read our copyright notice before making use of this article

© SA Sports Trader