January 16, 2017, 9:48 am
If your or someone you know loves collecting NBA jerseys, clutch your wallet tightly. It’s about to get a bit more pricey. Starting with the 2017-18 season, the league will no longer offer their replica jerseys in retail stores, instead shuttling them to their website or online retailer Fanatics. The Wall Street Journal has a more detailed write up of the league’s decision.
Jerseys typically come in one of three varieties. Replicas (selling for around $70) are the cheapest option, usually consist of different fabric than the on-court product and have screen-printed lettering instead of stitched names and numbers. Swingman jerseys (around $110), the mid-level option, tend to have more simplified stitching for names and numbers but are closer to the “real thing” than Replicas. Authentic jerseys ($300 or so) are as good as it gets, unless you plan on actually making the NBA anytime soon.
Given the nature of when and where people wear basketball jerseys, it makes sense that a majority of sales come from the Replica category, per “industry trackers.” That, plus increased player movement leads to more cautious purchasing- $300 is a lot to ask of someone for a shirt that won’t see a ton of use when the name on the back might leave town in the not-so-distant future.
That being said, there certainly are people who prefer to go for the “real thing” anyway, with the thought being that you might as well go for it if you’re already going to drop $100 on a jersey. Whether they, plus the customers who take the plunge at higher price points, can offset the lost Replica sales remains to be seen.
There are a few interesting notes in the article, namely that Swingman jerseys tend to sell the best and that the new distribution model will help ease the burden of rapidly shifting demand. To the first point, while I (as well as the industry trackers mentioned above) find that a little hard to believe, most of the jerseys I see on racks and shelves are of the Swingman variety. The sales data may be influenced by selection and scarcity, but that’s more a simple hypothesis than a fact of the matter. The second point makes quite a bit of sense, as it’ll allow fans to get their hands on jerseys faster, particularly if it’s a new player. Centralizing manufacturing and shipping will be faster and less costly than making and shipping stock out to individual stores.
In all, it’ll probably be a net positive for the NBA’s financials but a bit of a bummer for people who want to rep their favorite team or player at a decent price. In essence, Swingman jerseys will become the new Replicas. The cheapest option will still be available online, but you generally want to make it easy for prospective buyers to get their hands on merchandise. We’ll see how fans react.