I have a theory that the merchandisers who design and sell fan apparel – including jerseys, shirtseys, and all other clothing – do not understand their female customers. Teams and merchandisers appear to think that female customers spend less than men because they are not interested in sports merchandise, when it seems to me it is a problem of not offering products female customers want to buy.

I recently decided that I wanted a new piece of apparel for each of my four favorite teams. I started looking at their online stores to see what was available, and quickly became frustrated with my options. In some cases, they had a good assortment of non-jersey merchandise, but only 1 official jersey, while for men there were a minimum of three jersey styles available, including day/night/away/vintage uniform styles (note, I’m not including “fashion” jerseys in these counts). Only one of my four teams offered women’s jerseys in all of their active uniform styles (and that team had pretty limited offerings for women beyond jerseys). Ultimately, I did purchase a couple of items, but I might have bought more with better choices.

In casual discussions with other female fans, I have found that many agree this is a barrier to purchase. Some indicated that they purchase men’s or children’s merchandise instead. Personally, I don’t find that either fits me right, so that approach isn’t a viable alternative.

This issue isn’t limited to me, however; it also appears in some of Turnkey’s verbatim survey responses. The common complaints are about variety of merchandise, and availability of sizes. Additionally, the color pink stirs debate: many of our respondents seem to feel that unless pink is an actual or adjacent team color, it should not be a core color in the merchandise marketed to women. Here’s a sampling of some comments we’ve received:

Apparel Blog

Takeaways:

  1. Teams, leagues, and other official merchandisers should work to figure out what female fans want in merchandise, and then they should try to implement those things and measure whether improved products result in increased sales.
  2. Some teams probably already have collected data on this question and don’t realize what they have. For teams who already do survey research – through us or on their own – a great place to start is in the responses to open-ended merchandise questions.
  3. Turnkey can help teams to do additional research on their female fans’ desires and purchase habits, through surveys or focus groups.

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