The availability of core kits for the 2022 Charlotte FC (MLS) and Angel City FC (NWSL) football extension teams has been impacted by the slowdown.Courtesy of Charlotte FC

When the NWSL’s expansion team Angel City FC officially unveiled their main kit on November 17, featuring a creative video montage featuring celebrities and team investors such as Natalie Portman and Eva Longoria, the The team didn’t actually have a physical product to buy for the fans.

Four isolated swimsuit samples were used in marketing efforts, with some of the investors in a promotional video jokingly fighting to bring the kit home. Normally such an approach wouldn’t have been necessary, but the disruption caused by global supply chain issues is also affecting the sports industry, and the spot illustrated what teams are doing to get the most out of it. of the current environment.

“It’s a life we’ve all been living for the past six months,” said Katie Eaton, vice president of commerce and fan experience for Angel City, which will begin playing in 2022.

Jay Deutsch, co-founder and CEO of Seattle-based merchandise agency Bensussen Deutsch & Associates, which works with U.S. sports leagues and teams from the MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL, among others properties, has characterized the supply chain problems of the past 12 months and beyond as a “triple witchcraft hour”.

Deutsch explained that with the initial closure of the sports calendar in March 2020, demand for goods plummeted, leading to an “overabundance of inventory” and sports entities deciding to close all future orders. Production halted, creating a shortage of raw materials and further exacerbating already strained supply chains.

“It’s not as simple as flipping a switch and turning these machines back on,” Deutsch said, citing this as the second element of supply chain challenges. Demand then increased from early to mid 2021, but factories around the world cut back on manual labor in 2020, creating even more supply shortages.

Courtesy of Angel City FC

It was then a race for pro teams and leagues to buy whatever products they could finally get their hands on once the work bounced back. This resulted in a transport bottleneck – not only for the sports sector but for other global industries – which has been the third element in today’s supply chain headaches, Deutsch said. This included rail and road delays, but also maritime delays, notably at the port of Los Angeles, the busiest in the United States and which is expected to end the year with a record volume of shipments.

In Angel City, Eaton said major jerseys are now expected to arrive in early 2022. In the meantime, she has focused on creating some products, such as moving holiday items like wrapping paper and puzzles from abroad to locals. sellers in time for Christmas.

Charlotte FC, an MLS expansion team that also starts playing in 2022, experienced similar challenges with their main kit, which was due to debut in mid-November. Adidas, which along with Fanatics is an apparel partner, paid an undisclosed cost to expedite overseas shipping of the kit so that fans have the option of purchasing it from its unveiling on the 9th. December.

Team president Nick Kelly said there are now 10,000 main kits available – roughly split between Charlotte FC and the Fanatics – until more arrive in March or April 2022. The team has about 100 different products to sell, he said, compared to what normally would be. 400 to 500 articles “in an ideal world”.

“I feel like sometimes we work for Macy’s,” Kelly said, noting the team’s practice of promoting new available products via social media when they are in stock. “Right now, whenever we’ve had something new, from a hat to a bumper sticker, we’ve almost treated it like a catalog release because we want our fans to know what’s going on. come.”

Other American professional sports teams, such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, have had to overcome their own resupply challenges. From Black Friday to Cyber ​​Monday, team merchandise sales increased nearly 30% year-over-year from the 2020-21 season, and online orders for City Edition shirts and related clothing in mid-November are up nearly 125% from 2019-20. The Cavs have handled the situation by allowing pre-orders and advising fans that their items may be delayed.

Elsewhere, the Pittsburgh Penguins have a hot item to offer – as long as they can get it in stores. The team’s third jersey, a throwback to its Stanley Cup winners of the early 1990s, was announced on December 1, but there was a supply shortage, according to Nick Fenton, Aramark general manager. , the retail merchandise dealer at PPG Paints Arena. Aramark also operates the team’s main store in the Penguins Arena, in addition to two physical offsite locations and the team’s e-commerce site, PensGear.com.

“The third jerseys were amplified due to the demand and the marketing around the jersey, but we definitely had to be aggressive with replacement purchases to keep our normal product flow to the stores,” said Fenton.

He declined to say how many third jerseys have been sold to date, but said the inventory available for the December 11 online launch ran out within 30 minutes. With the uncertainty of when these jerseys will arrive in the Pittsburgh area, Aramark and the Penguins have refrained from offering fans the presale option. Another shipment of around 1,500 third jerseys is expected this week, with three more larger orders slated for early January 2022.

Still, BDA’s Deutsch said the supply chain problem might not be resolved even then, with a labor shortage and the backlog of shipping containers ready for unloading in Los Angeles likely. to postpone the problem until next year.