Believe 23.10.2011

I almost bought a tee shirt last week.  Nice red number, with just one word – Believe – and one date – 23.10.2011 – on the front. Available online and at the Welsh Rugby Union shop. But I thought I’d wait till this week.

You might have seen a couple of people wearing them in the 61,000 odd who ate and drank their way through the Cardiff Millennium Stadium “fan-fest” for the rugby union world cup semi-final. But they were difficult to pick out in the sea of red replica jerseys and tops. Now Welsh belief has to be suspended.

And that’s the thing about sport; triumph and disaster are separated by small measures – the width of a post, the colour of a card. Unpredictability is much of the charm and excitement that gets people involved. But, it also creates difficulties for businesses.

The Welsh Rugby Union seized the opportunity of a stong team performance to throw open the stadium doors and make money on the food, drink and merchandise (clothes, programmes etc). And good on them, but how many “Believe” tee-shirts will now remain unsold? How much has one result, 12000 miles away, cost in lost sales?

Retailing and sport make a fascinating mix, but one where the margins are made sharper by the time and outcome uncertainties. We know when the event will occur, but we can not predict the merchandise that will be bought, the way in which success breeds success and the deflation of the “wrong” outcome. Sports goods retailers have to be able to react to the good times and manage the bad times, faster perhaps than in other sectors and markets.

2012 will see the London Olympics; a hugely controlled, corporatized extravaganza, but one that will enthrall and engage millions and offer massive potential sales to retailers amongst many others. Licensed, trade-marked product aplenty, yours if you have the “right” credit or debit card.  But retailers have to be careful – how early will the demand for goods begin and how quickly will it be choked off? Will the licensed, official goods be affordable, especially at this recessionary time? How do they balance the risks between lost sales and obsolete stock? Can they afford to get it wrong?

And for Scotland, following fast on Olympic heels will be the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Huge opportunities to showcase Scotland and to market the place and its products. These events will not just be sporting occasions, but shop-windows for Scotland in all its guises. So when should we start “selling” 2014? And what should we sell and where? An international market beckons, and we need to get it right; tartan tat, well past its sell-by date, won’t do this time.

Great events, a great summer and autumn in store, and for those producers and retailers who get it right, the potential of great sales. But that nagging fear, that the wrong “result” will cost much money. Sport and retailing – an unpredictable mix.

By the way, it was never a red card.


About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Education and Students.
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2 Responses to Believe 23.10.2011

  1. Pingback: Time Flies | Stirlingretail

  2. Pingback: Week 26 in my Greenhouse | Stirlingretail

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