Replica shirt sales are a big deal for any club and it will come as no surprise that Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona top the table for global sales.

If you have millions to play with, then one of the quickest ways to see sales of your merchandise soar is to land a big name player. When Neymar moved from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2017, he achieved a record transfer fee of £198 million. A reported 85million people watched the superstar’s unveiling on television and within months the club revealed it was in danger of selling out of Neymar replica shirts, with sales reportedly having gone up 10-fold and Paris stores seeing a 75 per cent increase in visitors on that day alone.

And it’s a familiar pattern. Paul Pogba, who previously broke the transfer fee record when he moved from Juventus to Manchester United in August 2016, recently came top in a table of the most popular shirt sales and it’s been suggested that when football legend David Beckham went to Real Madrid, increased shirt sales alone covered his transfer fee.

While it remains to be seen whether sales of merchandise will even make a dint in the huge figures being commanded by the likes of Neymar (with sponsorship deals being the real money-spinner for bigger clubs), they are a vital source of revenue for many smaller clubs.

So, what can clubs who don’t have the bank balances of Manchester United and Real Madrid do to improve their chances of achieving sales on matchdays?

1)    Maximise the effectiveness of your club shop

Providing opportunities to buy merchandise at the ground is a must for any football club. While online shopping continues to grow in popularity, it will never be able to compete with the sensory experience of seeing, feeling and trying on branded items.

If you have a club shop, then you need to ensure everything about it has been fully optimised to achieve the maximum impact.

Key issues to think about include:

  • Accessibility – The best way to encourage sales is to be seen. If visitors must hunt around for the shop and it is hidden away from view, then you’re likely to be missing out on potential sales. Look at ways to make your retail offering more visible and easier to find. If you have limited options then consider using pop up shops or mobile kiosk that will sit externally where your main footfall is (a topic we’ll cover in more detail in a minute). Also think about branding and signage. Is it up to scratch and doing the job it needs to?
  • Appealing presentation – If your shop has the feel of a jumble sale, then think again. While some fans may like a good rummage, most will not. The better presented your shop is, the more likely you are to generate sales. It will also feel more professional. You want to find a balance between showing enough merchandise and cramming in too much. Having clear pricing is also important. Make it easy for shop visitors to see, get inspired and to make a decision.
  • Positive and friendly staff – Anyone working in your shop needs to be welcoming, engaging and friendly, and also smart in appearance. It may seem an obvious point but it is something that is easy to overlook. Make the shop an enjoyable place to visit and spend time before a match. Make it part of the whole experience you are offering, so fans want to pop along and grab something to get themselves even more immersed in the atmosphere. A friendly face can make all the difference.
  • Revise the layout – Having a shop that looks great when empty is one thing, but you need to observe how it works in practice when being used by real shoppers. What is the flow of the shop like? Is it laid out in the most efficient way? What happens when there are queues, where do they go? Is there anything you can do to naturally guide people queuing to stand in a certain place rather than obstruct others? What are they looking at when queuing, are you making the most of potential add-on sales? Do you have enough mirrors?

2)    Find ways to increase opportunities to buy

Internal space is often at a premium in most sports stadiums, while in contrast there is often space outside that is not being utilised. One tried and tested way to make the most of the available external space is the use of pop up shops and kiosks.

These types of units come in all shapes and sizes and can be used for a range of applications – from selling merchandising, to shirt printing, catering units and even community areas for families. As the units can be fully branded and fitted out with whatever features are required, a walk-in pop up shop compete with changing rooms could easily be a solution for clubs who don’t have the money to build and create a static shop. With this type of walk-in unit, the experience can easily replicate that of a traditional high street store.

The units can be bought or rented and offer a level of flexibility that static shops just can’t.

The benefits are broad reaching and include:

  • Capturing sales from passing footfall – Some supporters never go inside on matchdays, so a major benefit of having a portable retail unit in the grounds is that sales achieved from the passing footfall will be maximised. They can help clubs be seen and so capitalise on any impulse purchases, by making the process quick and easy.
  • Queuing is reduced – If you have a club shop then the addition of a portable unit can help speed up the buying process by alleviating queues and some of the pressures felt by the static shop. This also impacts on fan experience and those who might otherwise be turned off from buying by the sight of a long queue.
  • Gets merchandise into the hands of supporters – There is nothing quite like seeing and touching merchandise to help someone make a decision over whether to buy or not. These units not only show off the range of items that are available, but give supporters a chance to see them up close.

3) Offer incentives for loyal fans

If you’re not already doing so, then investigate any options you may have for encouraging loyalty and return visits. The most obvious route to take being some form of discount or loyalty card for season ticket holders.

The secret to generating more sales this way is to ensure any scheme you introduce to offers genuine value. If it’s just a gimmick – and is seen as such – then it’s going to do little for your reputation or to increase sales. Create a model that is fair and genuinely rewards loyal customers in some. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

A good place to start is to look at what others are doing – both the good and the bad. See what you can learn from them and how you might replicate their success.

4) Maximising sales online

It’s worth adding something here about online sales too, as the line between online and offline can be somewhat blurry. For example, a supporter may check online to see what kind of kit and other merchandise is available to buy and at what price, before deciding to visit the club shop when they’re next at the ground. The more seamless you can make the whole experience, the better.

If you haven’t looked at or used your online shop recently, then step into the shoes of a supporter and test it out. What’s it really like to use?

If you don’t have an online shop yet, then consider your options. Any medium to large-sized club around today will be expected to operate an online store but that doesn’t mean smaller clubs can’t also grab sales this way. Advances in technology mean ecommerce sites are no-longer just for the big boys and there are many great off-the-shelf options now available.

The secret to maximising online sales is usability. Leading retailers have become masters at the online shopping experience and that means customers will have high expectations. They’ll want a site that’s quick to respond, that work as well on a phone as a laptop and that contains the information they want to see.

It needs to:

  • Provide a professional user experience – Consider things such as what it’s like to use the website and how easy it is to navigate and find items.
  • Have world-class presentation – An online store must rely on its imagery to land a sale and that means displaying lots of high quality photography from a variety of angles and clearly explaining sizing.
  • Capitalise on upselling opportunities – One of the benefits of going digital is that it makes it super easy to encourage add on sales and to showcase products a shopper may not even know they want.
  • Instil buyer confidence – Offer multiple ways to pay to make it super easy and have a clear returns policy.

So, what now?

To increase merchandise sales on matchdays really comes down to one thing – creating opportunities to buy. If it’s easy for supporters to see and try out merchandise, then you’re more likely to grab impulse purchases.

But to really excel, you need to think about the experience you are providing. Is stock presented nicely, within a clean and professional environment and with friendly, engaging staff to meet and greet?

Get those elements right and invest in ways to increase opportunities to buy, such as through the use of pop up shops or mobile units, and results will soon follow.

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For more information on how to increase merchandise sales on matchdays and an informal chat about how our units and kiosks could help you, call our friendly team on +44 (0)1386 555044.