Using Fan Fashion to Build Customer Loyalty

Building customer loyalty is key for retailers and, while part of that is obviously offering desirable, high-quality products, consumers in today’s world want something more — they want to be a part of something larger than themselves - a community they can engage with.

One category that is unique in its ability to build community is team fan fashion, bringing together fans of sports teams and giving them a way of expressing their team spirit, having fun and being fashionable at the same time. These fans want all of the staples – hats and jerseys – but they also want an assortment of stylish product options that let them show their connection to the teams they love every day.

Having been in the business of licensed sports team fashions for nearly ten years, we’ve found that, regardless of the market or industry, capitalizing on community and providing unique, fun products that people are going to talk about to their friends and family is one of the more crucial elements in building brands and customer loyalty.

How can retailers, who sell thousands of different brands, capitalize on the excitement of a strong, dedicated, pre-existing fan community?

Connect with the community.
Chain retailers have the advantage of being top of mind in the communities they’re located in. When shopping for everyday items for their everyday lives, customers tend to turn to chains first, because they expect them to have exactly what they need.

In many communities, rooting for the local team is more than a leisure activity – it’s a passion.  Sports is something that unifies people, something that people talk about, that the media covers – and that everyone in the community has in common.  These teams are staples of everyday life and carrying team merchandise makes a retailer part of that package. In a sense, not carrying fan fashion items in-store would mean missing out on a huge market that’s good for steady incremental sales and impulse buys.

Carry a combination of traditional, trendy and edgy products.
Traditional items are good to have handy, because while everyone has them, customers will incrementally keep buying them to replace their worn out products. But the real value comes with the addition of trendy and edgy products, which make customers smile, that freshen up the display, get people excited and result in impulse purchases.

Integrate fan fashion into regular fashion and accessory displays.
Sports culture is strong when fans begin integrating their favorite teams into their everyday fashion. Long gone are the days when traditional game day fashion – jerseys, hats, gloves, and face paint – are enough to keep the avid fan happy. People now look for ways they can express themselves and their team spirit in high-quality, stylish fashions appropriate for work and outings with friends.

Consider this: Customers looking to buy a new handbag will typically go to the handbag aisle, not the licensed product section. While browsing the totes, the clutches and the carry-all bags, their favorite team logo catches their eye and triggers that warm feeling unique to fandom. Drawn in by their attachment to the team, they pick it up, get excited and impulse buy, because they have to have it or have to give it as a gift. The customer wouldn’t have found that bag if it had been in the sports section.

Be flexible and budget open to buy dollars for each month.
Retailers need to keep a monthly open to buy budget so as not to miss out on golden opportunities. In the sports industry, wins and losses dictate fan fever and it’s important to be flexible and have money set aside to purchase new fan products each month. That way when the Royals won the World Series, retailers in the Kansas City region could stock up on more Royals fan fashions to prepare for the fan frenzy.

Know the manufacturer.
Anyone who is focused on the fan fashion category knows that there’s a wide disparity among manufacturers. Are their products well-made? Is the design unique? Is it versatile? Does it inspire excitement? Would it make a great gift? Will a customer’s friends ask them where they bought it? Are the products still going to be relevant a year later when the merchandise finally hits the sales floor?  

The manufacturer’s track record is also essential.  What’s their history with other stores? What are the rankings of their products online? Are their products carried in team stores?

Whether a retailer carries fan fashions already, carries a limited amount or carries nothing at all, they have to ask whether or not they are meeting all the needs of their market. Having the right approach and the right strategy for fan fashion will build on existing community good will and make customers feel more connected – which is something all brands aspire to.

Rob Brandegee is CEO, and Ava DeMarco is president, of Little Earth Productions.

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