Mumbai: Retailers and makers of everything from apparel to stuffed toys are hoping that the ICC Cricket World Cup, which begins this weekend, will see Indians buying World Cup merchandise, but they admit that much depends on pricing, changing consumer behaviour, and the national cricket team’s performance.
The odds on offer—in the illegal betting market—should bring merchandise vendors some cheer; India is the odds-on favourite to win. “Team India is a very hot property and a very passionate property,” said Saumitra Srivastava, director of Yog Sports, the official merchandise distributor for Indian Premier League (IPL) 2010, last year’s edition of the popular Twenty20 cricket tournament organized by the Board of Control for Cricket in India. India is currently second on the International Cricket Council ranking of teams in One-Day Internationals, behind Australia.
Big Bazaar, the hypermarket chain of the Future Group and the authorized merchandiser for ICC World Cup 2011, has launched products across a range of categories—personal care, apparel, accessories and home linen. “We expect to sell a million pieces across the various products in the eight weeks (of the tournament),” said Sanjeev Agarwal, joint chief executive officer, Big Bazaar. He didn’t put a value to the transactions.
To be sure, it isn’t easy getting Indians to buy merchandise despite their passion for the game.
Agarwal said this could be because Indians do not “buy into the idea of buying apparel that can be used for two or three months”.
“Waste is not part of our culture,” he added. And so, Big Bazaar has focused on the fashion element of apparel and, according to Agarwal, is “just using the World Cup logos” on these.
That’s the same approach being used by Nike, which makes the Team India jerseys. In addition to the jerseys, Nike has launched a cricket-inspired line of products in association with young designers that interprets India and its obsession with cricket. Nike sees an opportunity in such merchandise, according to the marketing head of its Indian operations.
“When you look at the NBA (National Basketball Association in the US) or the EPL (English Premier League in the UK), you see the coolness factor... The influence filters down to what kids are wearing on the street, from their jerseys to their shoes. But you don’t see that with cricket here,” said Sanjay Gangopadhyay, marketing director, Nike India Pvt. Ltd.
Unlike the World Cup in 2007, which saw an early India exit that resulted in racks full of unsold merchandise, the 2011 schedule ensures the team will stay in the tournament for a longer time.
The longer the team is in the World Cup, the greater the demand it will fuel, Gangopadhyay said.
Price is also critical, with items below Rs 500 likely to move faster than those above it, said Srivastava of Yog Sports.
Simba Toys India Pvt. Ltd, which makes the World Cup mascot Stumpy, has shipped 50,000 items of merchandise featuring the little blue elephant, said Pradeep Parmar, business head.
These include soft toys, nursery bags, back packs and stationery priced at Rs 299-2,499.
“We are a German company, which wants to connect with the Indian masses,” Parmar said. “What better way to do it than cricket?”
HyperCity Retail (India) Ltd, which sold soccer World Cup merchandise last year, is offering T-shirts and signed bats starting at Rs 99. Interest generated by big tournaments leads to a 15-20% increase in footfalls for categories such as apparel and sportswear.
Sales usually rise 30-40% in these categories, said Ashutosh Chakradeo, head, buying, merchandising and supply chain, HyperCity. Sports, electronics, home furnishings and apparel make up 45% of the revenue at such stores.
Brands are also focusing on streams of revenue such as airports and online sales.
“Sales (of Indian team jerseys) have been rising every day with the World Cup,” said Mukesh Bansal, chief executive of Myntra.com, an online e-commerce site specializing in sports and lifestyle products. It sells Nike India team jerseys priced at Rs 900-2,500 online.
Sales are up from 1,500-2,000 jerseys a month at other times of the year to 300 a day now, he said. “We are expecting to sell approximately 10,000 jerseys this month,” Bansal said.
Counterfeiters may be taking away as much as half the business.
“While we haven’t really gone out and surveyed the losses, it would be safe to assume that retailers and manufacturers (of World Cup merchandise) could lose as much as 50% of their revenue to counterfeit products. And that’s a fairly reasonable estimate,” said Srivastava of Yog Sports. Unlike IPL merchandise, Team India items are sold round the year, thus pushing up such losses through fakes, he said.
Still, more than anything else, being associated with the game helps build a bond with buyers.
“It’s a brand connect with the Indian consumer,” said Nike’s Gangopadhyay. “Our biggest investment in India has been and will continue to be in cricket.”