Significant growth in college apparel

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
7:15
PM ET
The market for collegiate-licensed apparel has never been bigger, generating $4.6 billion annually, and it's only continuing to grow. Collegiate Licensing Company, which handles licensing for nearly 200 colleges, universities, bowl games, athletic conferences, the Heisman Trophy and the NCAA, has signed on three new established clothing brands as partners: Dockers, Carhartt and G-III Starter.

Dockers will venture into the collegiate space for the first time with its "Game Day Program" line, which will feature its khakis in two different fits: classic and alpha. The pants in this line each have an internal stamp of the school slogan and an embroidered school logo on the exterior.

[+] EnlargeUNC Carhartt Jacket
Courtesy of Collegiate Licensing CompanyFourteen schools will be part of Carhartt's initial rollout, including North Carolina.
"For us, as a brand that really prides ourselves in knowing men better than any other brand, we're listening to him and what he wants," said Adrienne Lofton Shaw, vice president and chief marketing officer for Dockers.

Beginning this month, Dockers is offering the new line for Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, LSU, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon State, Texas A&M and Washington State.

"Know that very quickly -- within the next couple of months -- we're going to be expanding beyond these 10 schools," said Shaw. "Our goal will be not only to grow 10 schools every season, but also we're looking at how do we create a custom program where [fans] can go to Dockers.com and be able to get any school they want."

No doubt Dockers was attracted to the collegiate-licensed product marketplace based on data from CLC that shows $4.6 billion in annual retail sales for licensed merchandise. That's second only to MLB, which was slightly higher at $5.0 billion. The NFL accounted for $3.25 billion, followed by the NBA at $3.0 billion, the NHL at $1.3 billion and NASCAR at $1 billion.

A whopping 65 percent of that retail marketplace for collegiate-licensed merchandise is apparel.

So far, the expansion into the collegiate apparel market is working out for Dockers.

"What we're seeing literally in Week 2 is a product that is totally blowing out immediately," Shaw said.

Carhartt also joins Dockers this fall as part of the CLC family. Its new line will include school colors and team logos on outerwear such as jackets, knit hats and overalls. CLC says outerwear has been an underdeveloped apparel category for collegiate-licensed product with extensive room for growth.

Fourteen schools will be part of Carhartt's initial rollout: Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Iowa State, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. CLC says the new line will be sold through farm and fleet distribution channels, with plans to extend to Bass Pro Shop and campus retailers.

Cory Moss, managing director of CLC, explains how decisions are made regarding which schools are involved in initial product rollouts:

"It's a combination -- the licensee tends to take the lead, but really each [case] is different. It can have to do with product categories, or it can deal with colors or even what retailer it might start with."

For Dockers, schools were chosen in part with regard to Macy's largest markets, as they are the exclusive retailer outside of Dockers.com at this time.

Next month, G-III Apparel Group, using the STARTER label, will re-launch its line of outerwear pieces for 14 schools: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Georgetown, Miami, Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas and Texas A&M. It will target higher-end retailers with a line that will range in price from $150 to $180.

Moss says the demographics of college sports fans are a nice fit for all three companies rolling out new lines this fall.

"When you look at the demographics of the college sports fan, you're talking about 190 million fans -- 80 million are females, over 60 million are minorities and over 30 million earn over $100,000 annually.

"When [these companies] are targeting colleges well, they're targeting a younger demographic that will grow up with their brand."

Kristi Dosh

Sports Business
Dosh covers sports business for ESPN. She is an attorney, founder of BusinessOfCollegeSports.com, and joined ESPN in October 2011.
Author of "Saturday Millionaires: How winning football builds winning colleges."

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