This is an excellent time for independents to get in on the lucrative football brand market, says Mark McDonnell, head of sport at Hy-Pro International
Footy fans love a bit of club branded merchandise. And no one knows more about football licensing than Mark McDonnell.
“I used to work for Manchester United on their merchandising team– back when it sold product through their own wholesale set up. Then 15 years ago the licensing business started to emerge and I moved over to Hy-Pro to deal with it. Hy-Pro started out working with US hockey brand Franklin, but moved into football licensing as the opportunity arose. Man U and England were our first football clients. We’ve expanded massively over the years and now work with all the top clubs.”
As competition within the industry has increased, the business has changed.
“Football is a safer bet than the likes of character licensing – it’s here to stay, which makes it attractive investement,” says Mark. “Financial reward, fan bases and global reach have also all increased. It means that over the past 10 years, more and more companies have joined the football licensing market, which means Hy-Pro have to work harder at what we do.”
The business is also getting more complicated.
A football club might have up to 40 different licenses for different products, for instance, replica kit, stationary or bedding.
“A knock on effect of this is that it’s more difficult now to gain actual floor space instore because there are so many options for retailers – but the hard work pays off,” says Mark. “We’ve just been through a huge number of renewals with the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea, Liverpool and England – and we’ve just added West Ham, Real Madrid and Paris St Germaine.”
Hy-Pro specialises in sports accessories including footballs, shin guards and water bottles.
“We can also add football branding to other products that we manufacture, for instance, to scooters and skateboards that we produce through our own brand Zinc.
“Signature balls continue to be one of our key lines, particularly with club marquee signings – and are great to get into a shop in the run up to Christmas.”
Hy-Pro products are good quality and undergo stringent tests to ensure club standards are strictly adhered to, though price points are slightly under items from larger brands such as adidas and Nike.
A large part of Hy-Pro’s business does go into the chain and grocery sector, but they also sell to the independents.
“We offer a great service. We carry healthy stocks in our UK warehouses in Dunstable and the independents can draw down stock whenever they need it. We have a £300 minimum spend, but alternatively, retailers can buy our products through wholesalers. “Independents can be reluctant to sell licensed goods – they’ve been put off by the major chains selling products cut price. But that’s changed now. The chains aren’t as cheap as they were – they think they’ve outdone the competition.”
Hy-Pro is thriving. “We continually invest in guaranteed winners and product innovation in terms of souvenir sales – and even though competition has increased, we’re still a major player in this category,” says Mark.
Retailers that want to get in on the action are invited to attend a one-day licensing show at Chelsea Football Club on November 14 (sportsmerchandise andlicensingshow.com) – where Hy-pro will be exhibiting.
“It’ll give retailers an idea of who owns which categories and what’s on offer. All the football licensing categories will be there, including us. It’s well worth attending to get a feel for what’s going on,” says Mark.