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Volume 6 No. 213
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Fanatics Targets U.K., China In Effort To Quintuple Annual Sales

U.S.-based online sportswear retailer Fanatics is "targeting markets such as the U.K. and China in its aim to quintuple annual sales" to $10B over the next five years, with help from a $1B investment from Japan-based SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, according to Sam Chambers of BLOOMBERG. But "while the American appetite for burgers or craft beer flows across borders with ease," selling sports gear to fans means "rubbing up against entrenched cultural norms and, in China's case, the economic ambitions of a global powerhouse." Most Premier League clubs were formed in the 19th century as "working-class social and cultural hubs." Despite "eye-watering" broadcast rights deals, they have been "more reticent than U.S. sports franchises to fully embrace commercial opportunities." University of Salford sports enterprise professor Simon Chadwick said, "British football fans have been conditioned in a very different environment to U.S. sports fans. They're more guarded about the excesses you see in U.S. sport because the tribal norms are very different." And while sports jerseys are an "accepted form of casualwear in the U.S.," that is not always the case elsewhere. Kit Walsh of licensing agency Fermata Partners, which helps clubs such as Arsenal and Liverpool market branded goods in the U.S., said, "In the U.K., if you wear your team's colors, a lot of people think you're not dressing up enough." Fanatics Int'l President Steve Davis "expects business outside the U.S. to make up about a half" of the company's $10B target. He plans to open manufacturing facilities in Germany and China next year, and in Japan and Australia in '19. China, where President Xi Jinping is aiming to build a $750B sports industry by '25, is a "particular source of excitement for Fanatics." But China has a "graveyard of foreign retailers." To succeed, Fanatics will need to "cultivate a culture" of buying football jerseys in a "nascent market" that is "still riddled with counterfeit products" (BLOOMBERG, 11/15).