The millions of die-hard cricket fans in India vouch that the concept of loyalty is definitely not over-rated. What is termed as cricket madness by some experts is seen as unwavering devotion to the Indian team by Indians. When an event like the Cricket World Cup begins, what follows is a herd of cricket obsessed fans ready to throw myriad of support to the team. The frenzy means anything associated with cricket gets a higher leverage, opening up massive opportunities for companies and translating into an overall economic development.
Commercialised sport has always been an important growth point of a country's economy. The world of bat and ball means a lot to the market. World Cup 2007 incurred heavy losses after the Indian team made an early exit from the tournament. Not only the official sponsors, but some other sectors too were pushed into red. India's promising start in World Cup 2015 with its victory over arch-rival Pakistan marks for a wonderful time ahead for apparel sector too. It is not just the boys that will be adorning blue, it will be million other fans from around the world sporting the same colour. And, as other cricket playing nations clamour to be on the same page as India, apparel sale says otherwise.
Choice of store
Shopping online has become a norm than an exception today. With immeasurable perks that online websites offer, fans have been flocking to the sites to grab official ICC cricket accessories. Nike, which is the official sponsor of Team India, has collaborated with e-retail giant Myntra to sell World Cup 2015 kit exclusively online. Moreover, it is not only Myntra that is securing good response, other online websites like Amazon that are selling t-shirts with trophy photographs, ICC Cricket World Cup logo, etc in different colours, are also attracting buyers. Official online stores of ICC and ESPN Cricinfo are expecting to earn US $ 10 million through sale in India, Australia and New Zealand. These stores reported that the gold foil print Indian retro t-shirt, worn by Team India in 1992 World Cup, is among the fastest selling item, followed by the caps.
Though, it is more convenient to research and compare prices of online cricket apparel, this has not affected footfall in brick and mortar stores. Sale in brick and mortar stores is also attracting an impressive number of buyers. The sale in Tier-I cities in India is picking up as the tournament progresses. According to Nike India's marketing director Avinash Pant, "The stores, both online and physical, are experiencing good traction in key cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. As the excitement builds up, we expect this traction to increase even further."
Unlike 2011, when Cricket World Cup accessories were limited to t-shirts, trousers and caps, this year's official sponsors have introduced seventy-three items including an array of fashionable accessories, like bags, too. "The merchandise went online in January 2015 and sales have picked up from 20 orders a day to 300 orders a day," said Atul Srivastava managing partner, Gaames Unlimited, a Bengaluru-based sports management company.
Fake vs Real
The official Team India caps, t-shirts, trousers, etc being sold through Myntra are priced between INR 1895 and INR 4995 and are a popular item among fans, but competition from local shops selling low-cost replica is a cause of concern. Many local street shops in India are selling Team India t-shirts, trousers and caps at a much lower cost than offered by official stores. Starting from INR 250, these items are selling like hotcakes. Even though quality of the apparel and accessories available at local shops is not at par with the official items, the low-cost option continues to attract customers. Similar to the Cricket World Cup of 2011, wherein fake fan cricket gear went past the sales of official gear, World Cup 2015 may not seem different with tough competition from fake fan gear. Moreover, these fake apparel and accessories are not only expected to bother India, sales of low-cost t-shirts, caps, etc of various other teams are also gaining momentum in the host country Australia.
But, what makes India's official cricket gear special is that the new lightweight kit comprising of t-shirt and trouser is created out of an average 33 recycled plastic bottles. Thus, team India's replica kit clearly has an edge over low-priced fake kit. "Since January 15, we have sold over 8,000 jerseys that is almost 300 per day. As the World Cup progresses, we hope to double sales," said Mukesh Bansal, CEO of Myntra.
The clear favourites
Cricket World Cup 2015 has fourteen teams, but when it comes to sale of team items, India definitely steals the show. The sale of team India's apparel and accessories has managed to surpass other teams, as Indians living in various parts of the world are keenly following the matches. According to Souq.com, Middle East region's official online e-tailer for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, almost 60 per cent of sales are centred around Team India's t-shirts, caps, etc. India is followed by Pakistan that has 15 per cent share in sale and Sri Lanka with 10 per cent share. "With the large Indian population in this region, we expected India sales to do well. However, the fact that 60 per cent of all sales are for Team India shows the staggering support that they have in this region," says Mahendra Asar, general manager of Souq.com UAE. In Chicago, local stores selling World Cup accessories witnessed a rise in sale of India and Pakistan team t-shirts prior to clash of these teams. According to Sanjay Gangopadhyay, marketing director, Nike India, about 50 per cent of Nike's cricket merchandise sales currently come from the India jersey.
Post-World Cup expectations
Cricket World Cup serves as an auspicious time for team's apparel sale, but after tournaments get over, continuation of such trend always looks doubtful. A major hurdle is, unlike football or basketball fans, cricket fans in India do not inculcate team t-shirts or trousers into their daily fashion statement. The fan gear is limited to a big event like World Cup and probably other mini tournaments or leagues, and thus it does not convert into a routine casual style outside of the stadium. "It is not uncommon to see people in Manhattan walking on the streets with a swagger, wearing basketball-inspired clothes. In India, how many people can you see like that on the streets, outside the stadium? Not many, "said Sanjay Gangopadhyay of Nike. Thus, sports brands and outlets are expecting cricket gear's demand to last throughout the World Cup, but not beyond that.
The local shopkeepers are also certain that the sales of team gear will be limited until the World Cup ends. Though India's cricket craze remains unmatched, apparel brands have not managed to stretch their cricket gear sales beside a particular global cricket event, mainly because such apparel does not easily fit into daily, general fashion expectations.