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Sportswear brands failing to capitalise on growing female fans

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Sports Direct's Euro's Campaign. Credits: Sports Direct.

Klarna, the AI-powered global payments network and shopping assistant, has revealed that sales of women’s football shirts are up 17 percent in the past year through its platform, however, eight out of 10 fans add that they would buy more women’s sports merchandise if more options were available.

According to new research from Klarna and fan intelligence company Sports Innovation Lab, sales of women’s football shirts have been growing twice as men’s shirt sales, which are up just 8 percent, but 28 percent of fans want more clarity on where to find women’s sports merchandise as one-third added that they purchased at unofficial retailers due to more availability.

The report titled ‘Rep Her: Revealing the Unmet Demand for Women’s Sports Merchandise,’ highlights significant disparities in availability and quality for women compared to men's sports merchandise and adds that sportswear brands are failing to capitalise on a 4-billion US dollar per year market opportunity that exists in today’s sports landscape.

Angela Ruggiero, co-founder of Sports Innovation Lab, said in a statement: “Consumer appetite for league, team, and athlete merchandise is vastly exceeding.

“There is a golden opportunity for retailers to capitalise on a surging market that is telling us if you create something authentic to the community, they will buy it.”

Sportswear brands need to be more to address the gender-based disparities in women’s sports merchandise

Adidas - Manchester United x Stone Roses collection Credits: Adidas

Data reveals notes that sportswear brands should be addressing gender-based disparities in women’s sports merchandise accessibility, as 79 percent report a noticeable gap between men's and women's sports merchandise citing disparities in variety (52 percent), availability (47 percent) and quality (36 percent).

The research also adds that 78 percent of surveyed respondents would purchase more women’s sports merchandise if more options were available, with T-shirts, sweatshirts and team kits among the top items fans say they want more of.

In addition, female fans are also demanding inventory, as 39 percent want more availability of popular items, 46 percent want a wider range of options and 25 percent want more athlete-specific designs.

Female sports fans hungry for merchandising options and inventory

Overall, buying women’s sports merchandise is notably more painful than buying men’s sports merchandise, adds the report, with buyers of women’s sports merchandise 60 percent more likely to have trouble finding a style than buyers of men’s sports merchandise.

It adds that women’s sports fans want equality on the field and in what they wear, ranking comfort, style, and price as their top factors for what they’re seeking in their merchandise. The top reason given for why sports fans have never purchased women’s sports merchandise before was the price (35 percent), followed by a lack of general interest (33 percent), and then style (16 percent).

Across all seven markets in surveyed - US, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, Spain, and the UK, more than 60 percent of fans said they would buy more women’s sports merch if it was available.

The report identified Canada as a good market to emulate saying that they’ve “cracked the code” amongst consumers who buy women’s sports merch, while Germany has the highest opportunity for growth at 45 percent, and Spain needs to justify the quality and value of their women’s merch, so it’s on par with the men’s merchandise in terms of pricing.

Jess Robertson, co-founder and chief content officer at media and commerce company Togethxr, said in the report: “Women’s sports consumption is skyrocketing, including merch, because women’s sports fandom is always on.

“This isn’t a ‘build it and they will come’ environment; women’s sports fans have been here. We’re making the product available and that’s why we’ve seen everyone from celebrities to athletes to parents rocking our merch.”

Klarna X Sophie Hird 'Rep Her' - Football Shirt Credits: Klarna/Foudys

Klarna collaborates with global football media brand Copa90 to launch new female sports merchandise

To raise awareness of the availability gap that exists for women's official sports merchandise, Klarna has teamed up with global football media brand Copa90 to launch new merchandise, including a football shirt and T-shirt designed by Sophie Hird, who has previously collaborated with Mitre on a cap commemorating the forgotten Women’s World Cup team of 1971.

The merchandise features the phrase ‘Rep Her’ to showcase the growing influence of women’s sports and is available to shop on Klarna via Foudys, the world’s first retail site dedicated solely to women's football founded by Helen Hardy. Proceeds from every purchase support The Laces Community Clubs, which is fostering the growth of women's football.

Megan Gokey, head of business to consumer marketing and brand partnerships at Klarna, added: “There is a wide-open goal for any sportswear brand who caters to the women's sports boom, but surprisingly, not enough are stepping up just yet. So we launched this research to raise awareness of the Merch Gap and goad the big brands into serving female sports fans.

“We are energised by the recent attention surrounding women’s sports and are thrilled to kick off this initiative, ultimately helping to make merchandise more accessible to millions of fans and create a space for women’s sports fans to shop smarter and ‘fan’ harder.”