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South Africa | World Cup| Replica salesPhoto: Carin Hardisty
September 2015

Will the 2007 ‘Bok

fever be repeated?

Planning stock for an event like the 2015 IRB World Cup can be tricky as nobody can predict if we’ll see a repeat of the fan-fever towards the end of the 2007 World Cup when even the most unlikely fans were frantically searching for Green and Gold. Springbok jersey supplier ASICS gives some tips on how to benefit from replica sales

O, but for a crystal ball when having to plan replica stock — especially for a major event like an IRB World Cup!

Cast your minds back eight years to the final few weeks of the World Cup in France: as the possibility of one more glorious ‘Bok victory became more and more of a reality, rugby fever gripped the country as never before. Retailers were desperately trying to order any possible kind of Springbok replica as even the most unlikely customers came looking for team supporters gear. In the week before the final, it would have been a rare South African who did not at least wear something in green and gold and an estimated 80 000 jerseys were sold in retail stores.

Yet, in Paris, retailers couldn’t give away an All Black shirt after the host nation knocked the favourites out at the quarter-finals stage.

The problem that South African retailers faced then — as now — was that it took quite a while for South Africans to “vang gees”. Remember the team selection criticisms, the transformation controversies, the low expectations after the Springboks managed only one win in the Tri-nations series preceding the World Cup … nothing to predict the mass pride and euphoria that had even the most unlikeliest supporters showing their colours.

For ASICS SA, who has to ensure that there is sufficient supply for all their retail customers, “being able to accurately project the demand and ensure there is sufficient supply in the market for everybody to be able to get their hands on a replica item” is like walking a tightrope.

“We are fortunate enough to have an experienced team who has been through the planning of both a rugby and soccer world cup which helps bring extra support to get the right mix,” says ASICS SA National Sales Manager Craig White. But, while he acknowledges that “team performance is always critical to any replica business, if the team performs jersey sales will always go up” he also points out that a World Cup offers consumers much more.

“It is a unique opportunity to fully get behind not only your team, but your country. We would highly encourage fans to get behind the ‘Boks prior to the kick off of Rugby World Cup and align to the call to action around Bok Fridays.” The support from government and the call by Minister of Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, that South Africans should wear their Springbok colours on Fridays, is a far cry from the negativity that preceded the departure of the Springboks in 2007 when the controversial chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Sport was so critical of the team selection.

But, again, retailers need to decide whether it was the unusually long and cold winter that discouraged fans from buying — and wearing — their Springbok supporter jerseys in their thousands in the month before the ‘Boks departure … and whether they will rise to the occasion when the weather improves and the tournament gets underway.

Retailers will also remember the double-scourge of not being able to meet demands: as they ran out of stock during the 2010 FIFA World Cup as well as the 2007 IRB World Cup, their customers turned to the illegal street vendors for gear. In two raids in 2007, police confiscated 126 000 counterfeit Springbok jerseys.

In South Africa, sales of replica and supporter gear do not fill retailer tills as in England, for example. According to a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), South African entertainment and media outlook: 2012-2016, the South African sport merchandising market is worth about R535-m per year. Of that, sales to rugby supporters will account for about a third, or R178-m per year. This includes all merchandising — bags, beanies, shirts, t-shirts, flags, etc. as well as discounted sales of old shirts.

While sales of Springbok jerseys can double during a World Cup year — especially as the team advances during the tournament — retailers will also know that the Springbok jersey is by far the best seller among all the local rugby team shirts, selling about double or three times as many as Super Rugby team shirts. They will also know that fans will wear any Springbok jersey if there are no more specific tournament jerseys available.

“We would recommend that our customer stocks up on a mix of both options to ensure they have the authentic Green and Gold in their store,” he says.

Retailers will therefore not run the risk of having tournament-specific stock left over, should things not go as well as everybody hopes for the Springboks.

The Springbok jersey also has international appeal. Many a South African travelling overseas has made the mistake of happily greeting a wearer of the jersey as a compatriot … only to discover that he is actually a Frenchman, Welshman or American who had bought the jersey as a souvenir. There will therefore always be a demand for the Green and Gold.

But, ASICS SA is optimistic about the ‘Boks chances and have been preparing for the last minute rush by making sure they have some additional stock leading into the tournament. “We are gearing up for last minute orders as the tournament progresses and as the team continues to perform,” says White. But, even they cannot budget for unlimited supply and will only be able to supply on a first come first serve basis while stocks last.

They supply a full range of jerseys ranging from replicas of the top end test jersey, to take down fan tees and accessories. “These cover a range of price points and we have ensured that there will be a suitable option for each customer’s pocket. We offer some of these items in kids and infant sizes.”

They have three types of replica shirts available for retailers, says Sarah Mundy of ASICS SA. The SB Test Home shirt is a direct take down of the players’ jersey and features silicone gripper technology on the body panels. The SB M’s Home Shirt is the official fan jersey, is made of 100% polyester and features embroidered logos on the chest area. The SB M’s Fan Shirt is made with a lightweight 100% polyester fabric and features printed logos.

Most suppliers of jerseys for other teams in the IRB World Cup will rely on internet sales of their supporter wear, but ASICS SA will also supply the Wallabies jersey they produced and manufactured.

All Black jersey from adidas

Adidas recently introduced the new 2015 All Black World Cup jerseys — the team’s most technically advanced jersey yet. Three replica styles — the cotton-based supporters’ version, the traditional replica version and the performance version — as well as a full legacy range, are available.

The players’ jersey pays tribute to The Originals — the iconic All Blacks team that won 34 of the 35 matches during their 1905-1906 tour of the UK, US and France.

“The Originals were really the first All Blacks team to capture the rugby world’s imagination, especially in the UK, so we think it’s fitting that the team is heading back to the UK this year with that on their chest,” says Simon Cartwright, Senior Director of adidas Rugby Global.

The new jersey has a subtle patterned design in the shoulder and chest area, which was developed with input from team’s management and senior players, and reflects the leather yoke used on The Originals’ jersey.

The jersey was developed using techniques applied in the aerospace industry and included the body mapping process known as Dynamic Stretch Analysis, which measures bodies during motion while monitoring strain on the skin.

Based on this research, adidas produced two jerseys suited to the needs of the forwards and backs that mimic players’ skin movement.

They also feature the brand’s Woven Carbon, which is a fabric-weaving technology with two-way stretch that does not compromise the strength, flexibility, weight or comfort needed during play.

South Africa | World Cup| teams shirts

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