Italian Sportswear giants Kappa took over from Luke1977 last summer to work alongside sports v-commerce specialists Fanatics in supplying Aston Villa’s kits and training wear until 2022.
Last season, Villa became the first side in England to adopt a vertical e-commerce model when they announced a three-way kit partnership with Fanatics and Luke1977. When the SoftBank-backed apparel and merchandise firm Fanatics agreed to a deal with Villa, the club’s officials described aS ‘ground-breaking’ as the US-based company had rarely taken their unique business structure to England before.
Including the NBA, NFL and MLB in the US, Fanatics have had a tight grip on sportswear across the pond and with considerable success too. Former Villa chief commercial officer, and the man who brokered a deal, Luke Organ admitted having up to 11 offers from sportswear companies all vying to take the mantle off Under Armour after the 2017-18 season.
Organ said, “Fanatics were very much near the top of the pile, but brought in a lot of other opportunities for us to go forward and commercialise this area of the club.”
THREE YEAR KAPPA DEAL
A three year deal with Kappa was only last year trashed out, with Fanatics mostly manufacturing Villa’s strips, and Kappa leading the design phase of production.
So who is to blame for the merchandise labelled by some fans as tacky, lacking in quality shirts, and training wear that has done the rounds on social media since the summer? It’s not an issue that either Kappa or Fanatics have since resolved.
According to some supporters, ‘A’s’ have been missing from the crest, W88 sponsor’s faded and in general, a lack of care has been taken in supplying Villa’s uniforms this season. Dean Smith, Tyrone Mings and John McGinn have all been recently interviewed wearing kit with issues on.
For the fans that have to fork out up to £90 for Kappa’s claret active jersey, such prices are hard to justify as they are, but with the state of some shirts, the pricing structure is nothing short of ludicrous.
In a recent AGM, Christian Purslow put shone a light on Villa’s kit deal.
“I will take your comments away. I happened to have the chairman and owner of Kappa as a guest at the Spurs game.
“He told me proudly over lunch, ‘This season we have cleared over 80,000 kits’. The budget was for 30,000 and would you believe they have already ordered levels of 100,000 for next season which would put us in the top eight in Britain and the top 15 in Europe.
“I’m not here to justify the unjustifiable, and certainly not to excuse. I will make one point around supply in general. The first year of a promotion season presents very significant issues for all aspects of the merchandise business, in particular kit, but other aspects too.”
Purslow continued to explain the nuts and bolts of retail, and how Villa’s performance directs impacts the club as a business.
“Let me just take one minute to explain the relationship, and this is not to deflect blame, but it’s important you know this. Prior to my arrival and at a very low ebb in the company’s fortunes, a number of functions were effectively subcontracted, meaning they were sold to third parties to manage on Aston Villa’s behalf in return for providing Aston Villa with a fixed amount of money come what may.
“So effectively, if you think about this merchandise business and it’s the same. Retail is a very uncertain business. Merchandise sales are pretty uncertain and you have to invest a lot in stock. If you get it wrong, or the team does badly, and you don’t like the apparel you are left holding the baby.
“It does mean that I can have a word with Kappa but in reality, they buy what they buy and I can’t make them buy more or less because they pay us the same whatever they buy.”
HAVE YOUR SAY
Kappa, in the past weeks, has released a brand new collection of retro tracksuits. They’ve been received well, and no doubt flown off the shelves but with faults too persisting in the latest batch of merch, the next two years of kit must hit Aston Villa’s standards.
The Fans Consultation Group are due to meet with officials of the club this week to discuss how the first year has gone with Kappa. We would love to hear your thoughts, hopefully, more good than bad, so please leave your comments below or on one of our social media channels.