The 2017 Team Store Playbook

How do you sell more team merchandise for your next season? By going all in on what minor league sports are all about.

Successful retailers often have at least one thing in common. They don’t try to be something they’re not. Whether a florist, book store or gift store, they zero in on what they do well and not only own it. They celebrating their theme or category in unique ways that keep their customers coming back again and again.

Here’s what you can do to draw the “fan” out of your shoppers and compel them to buy more and more often in the coming year.

Play the Pride Card

People love feeling like they're part of the minor league teams they root for, whether that means meeting and getting to know the players or wearing caps and jerseys for every game. Use your store to encourage that feeling.

For instance, pump up the local angle like a lot of chain restaurants to do to make their places feel like local institutions. Decorate your space with photography of the ballpark and other local landmarks and display team memorabilia from past seasons. Make the team store feel like an homage not just to the team, but to your town.

Also, consider creating a loyalty program that helps make your shoppers feel like they're buying more than merchandise. They're supporting the team. Loyalty rewards could be unique experiences at the venue, from player/coach meet-and-greets to one-on-one autograph sessions to opportunities to visit off-limits parts of the park like the press box. You’d be surprised at how many everyday things to you are extraordinary to fans.

Once you build a your loyalty list, you can stay in touch with these customers via SMS and/or email. SMS is preferable. Admit it. Everyone dreads combing through their emails now. You're more apt to read and respond to text messages. 

Whatever your communication channel, craft more personal messages than your standard blast email campaigns. Share info you think they’d value enough to pay attention to. New product arrivals. Cool design trends in sports. An insider dish on a new promotions you're brainstorming. Solicit input on new merchandise. Remember, you want them to feel like they’re part of the team.  

Surprise Customers (They love surprises)

A hallmark of minor league sports is unpredictability. Fans never know what'll happen at the game. Will they get shown on the Kiss Cam? Will they get a bear hug from the mascot? Will they find something new to try at the concession stand?

Make sure your shoppers find something unexpected in the team store, too. Something that makes them say, “Hey, remember when I got these cool Pelicans flip flops at Field? Good times.”

One way to sell a surprise is being responsive to social trends as they happen, especially when they’re local- or team-specific. One of the best examples happened last summer in Cleveland, where Twitter user @HipsterTito coined the phrase, "Party at Napoli's,” and the Indians first baseman just ran with it. Mike Napoli eventually sold shirts with that phrase to raise money for Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital. The shirts were everywhere in Cleveland.

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Stay Loco for Local

Tired of mustachioed hipsters preaching the merits of artisanal cheeses and soy soap made by local farmers? Sorry. It’s still happening, and the minor leagues are very much about local and home town, too. Wear it.

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Many already are. Look at the temporary rebranding movement. The Reading FIghtin’ Phils just announced they’ll be the Whoopie Pies for a game in August not only because it sounds funny and Whoopie Pies are delicious. The earliest recipes come from Amish kitchens in neighboring Lancaster County. The area is known for Whoopie Pies. Now, so are the Fightins.

What is your town known for and how can you sell it? Greensboro has a rich history in denim production (Jeansboro!), and guess what? The Grasshoppers store sells locally made Wrangler jeans. The Bulls celebrate Durham by selling local boutique brands alongside team jerseys caps.

If a customer perceives he or she can find something only in your town, they’re more likely to buy it plus a few more things to commemorate their visit.