From The Editor | September 5, 2013

Are You Ready For Some Football?


By Bob Johns

Bob Johns, Robert Johns, associate editor

Football has truly become America’s game. The NFL is the most powerful sports league in the U.S., and its popularity is growing. College football dominates television ratings, and high school football dominates many Americans’ Friday nights. Football is a money-making machine, and retailers are all over it.

It is nearly impossible to walk into any mass-merchandise retailer, department store, or grocery store and not be bombarded by football merchandise. Walk into your local Walmart, and the very first displays are for NFL teams, followed by college football teams. Go to the grocery side, and there are “Game Day” snack displays in the aisles and on the endcaps. Even the refrigerated section has displays promoting hotdogs and hamburgers for the next football party. The same is with the local grocery stores, drug stores, and convenience stores. Department stores are not to be left out, promoting apparel, accessories, and housewares all having to do with football. This is big business, and it can help set up a retailer for success or failure going into the holiday season.

Back-to-school (BTS) numbers this year have been less than stellar, with companies like Walmart and Costco releasing disappointing BTS sales figures. BTS is the second most important season for retailers, and football season is poised to be a savior for retailers going into their most important selling season, the holidays. Although there is no specific data available, retailers we are speaking with have indicated brisk movement of both college and NFL merchandise so far.

The key is timing for retailers, when the football season starts, everyone is excited for their teams, because they have a legitimate shot to be good, and theoretically easier to support though buying merchandise. But what happens when retailers anticipate great continued sales of football merchandise and the team stinks? Sorry, Jacksonville. This is where having the best inventory management solutions in place can save the day, or at least some money.

Football fans of every team live across the U.S. and around the world. If a team is not doing well and sales are down in their immediate area, that is a perfect opportunity to make sure that extra inventory in the store is available to that fan 2,000 miles away, who still supports his hometown team, even though he moved away 20 years ago. Instead of having a separate inventory for the e-commerce site that is replenished, why not leverage that in-store inventory and ship the merchandise straight from there? It saves on having to clearance the merchandise locally, and stops any auto-replenishment of the e-commerce distribution center if they have one.

The only way this can be accomplished is with a solution that offers complete real-time, or near real-time, view of inventory levels across all channels. At the same time, and intelligent distributed order management system needs to be in place to calculate the best location to fulfill orders from, while still keeping adequate stock on hand. Retailers can leverage each of their stores as distribution centers, and it can even be set to focus on sending slow-moving merchandise out of certain stores first.

Football season will never take over the holidays as a selling season, but it is a significant portion of holiday sales and can set up the season well, if retailers leverage their inventory properly. Oh, and GO STEELERS!