A window of opportunity

While SMex may not be the archetypal tradeshow for the sports industry, there were plenty of opportunities for retailers to cash in on, as David Pittman found out when he spoke to exhibitors.

SMex, the sports merchandising exhibition, filled out the Bobby Moore Club at Wembley Stadium in London last month with suppliers and wholesalers showcasing a plethora of products, from replica shirts, balls and scarves to mobile phones, garden gnomes and trophies, to buyers and specifiers.

From a visual perspective, such a varied selection of products allowed exhibitors to be more inventive with their displays than at usual sports tradeshows. Rainbow Productions, a specialist manufacturer of mascots for sports clubs and organisations, had two giant bear costumes on its stand, while football merchandiser Home Win used its portfolio of club-themed garden gnomes to build a football team using ‘players’ from across the English leagues. From a business perspective, there were a number of exhibitors who showed interest in working with sports retailers to grow sales prospects through merchandise.

There were names already known to the trade on show, such as Physicool and Hy-Pro. Physicool was showing its range of support and treatment products, while Hy-Pro was showing a selection of Shock Doctor mouthguards, alongside licensed bags, balls and accessories from the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

There were also those who are actively looking to get into the retail community. Pattni Imaginations exhibited its Match Stars football action figures at SMex, and managing director Mayur Pattni has already told SGB Sports how it is looking to offer these to retailers to support existing sales of football products.

ShoFoo, which designs and manufactures a range of unique photo footballs, had a selection on show to visitors, including new designs featuring the earth, the moon and the sun.

A spokesperson for ShoFoo said these three are primarily being targeted at schools, but it is open to working with the retail community to offer them, and its other designs. These vary from specific player and club designs to location, event and fun focused footballs. It can also produce printed balls for other sports, such as basketball.

Medals and trophies supplier Classic Miniatures already works with retailers, with around a quarter of its business going through trade.

Operations director Fiona Park said this remains a steady part of its business, although it has started to move away from offering bespoke products through the retail community as, “we were finding they weren’t asking the right questions to customers on what they wanted,” she said. Bespoke products are being sold direct, while

Classic Miniatures’ off-the-shelf range of awards, medals and badges are going to retailers, she said.

Scarf specialist Foster Enterprises, sporting memorabilia supplier Sportscasts, pool ball developer Branded Balls and So:Se, a new inflatable seating solution for sporting events, also voiced their desire to grow into the retail market,

Another was Elgate Products, which made a big deal of its range of London 2012 Olympic mascot products. From soft toys and pens to figurines, sales director Guy Askew said there is a huge opportunity for retailers to cash in on the momentum building behind the event over the next year.

“At the Beijing Olympics, there were more than 80m mascots sold. That equates to more than $415m and for many it was like two Christmases rolled into one.

“UK retailers can expect the same kind of boost and we’re trying to get into sports retailers as a way to maximise sales and exposure to the consumer market.”

Check out SGB Sports exclusive photos from SMex on Flickr