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Volume 21 No. 35
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Colleges gain insights on merchandise sales

Collegiate Licensing Co. controls 80 percent of the market in the business of licensing college gear. But until January 2013, when CLC launched a comprehensive data analytics program, colleges didn’t know where their products were sold.

For many years, the only information schools received through their licensees were monthly royalty reports compiled by CLC, numbers separated only by apparel and non-apparel items, said Catherine Gammon, CLC’s senior vice president of brand development.

“Back in the day … when we would look at trends and how the sporting goods channel was doing or even the online channel … we didn’t know what percentage of their products were being sold at what retailers,” Gammon said.

Debbie Gay, Florida’s licensing manager, has used data to determine the right mix of licensees and retailers selling the school’s products.
Photo by: IMG College
To get a better handle on trends and increase revenue, CLC developed a data analytics program and invested seven figures in the software component. The company, a division of IMG College, worked with its clients at annual meetings to form the retail intelligence program.

For almost three years now, all licensees have been required to report the number of units sold, category description and where the item was sold. Each school has access to the platform, called MyiCLC, providing “a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes and really see where the gaps in the marketplace are,” Gammon said.

It was a huge undertaking to get the program up and running. CLC staff manually entered more than 75,000 retail codes, with each code representing a unique retailer such as Wal-Mart. The big number provides greater context for how much information schools were missing before the program was launched, in addition to the amount of technology and investment required to drive that innovation, Gammon said.

“What it’s really helped us do is to identify the retailers that were doing a good job and had some momentum behind selling licensed products,” she said. “It also helped us identify where the [untapped inventory] was to really increase distribution and grow that business.”

For example, over the past several years, CLC’s research showed hot trends in youth, infant and toddler apparel, yet many retailers didn’t have licensees selling those products, leading to a missed opportunity for schools, Gammon said.

Through retail intelligence, “we can now select best-in-class licensees, pair them with retailers and capitalize on the trend,” she said.

At the University of Florida, a CLC account, data analytics has helped school officials determine the right mix of licensees and retailers selling their products and eliminate poorly performing vendors, said Debbie Gay, Florida’s licensing manager.

It’s counter-productive for the school to have 30 licensees selling the same products at retail, Gay said. As part of the retail intelligence program, Florida cut the number of licensees and charged companies such as Nike, the school’s exclusive supplier of replica jerseys and performance apparel, a higher royalty of 14 percent. The standard royalty is 12 percent. On the vendor side, Nike jersey sales are up 38 percent over last year and its performance apparel sales have jumped by 101 percent. A portion of those increases can be attributed to reducing clutter among the total licensees, Gay said.

“There was one point at Florida that we had probably close to 800 licensees, just too many and oversaturating the market,” Gay said. “I first started taking a look at it and realizing when I had some companies submitting zero sales after a year of being on the books, why are we even carrying that license? I started weeding them out before we even got this retail intelligence. But then once we started getting this information, it really started helping us drill down even deeper.”

The data-mining piece helped Florida recognize a gap in licensed women’s and youth apparel lines, which led to the school signing Victoria’s Secret’s Pink collection to help fill that untapped category, Gay said.

“The next evolution for us is to look at non-apparel categories, the novelties and trinkets, and that kind of thing,” she said. “The data helps us determine where we’re weak as far as product categories and the retail distribution, and where we can look at investing dollars to beef up those areas.”

For CLC, having that intelligence in hand has given it “a very influential seat at the table with retailers” when negotiating deals to sell licensed college merchandise, given its dominance in the market, Gammon said.

“We’re able to present a story that no one else in the industry can and showcase at 30,000 feet all the way down to the store level, what’s going on in the industry,” she said. “Of course, we don’t want to forget the consumer. These products are really about what the fans want and what we can deliver to them.”