Manchester United Football Club is one of the most recoganised sporting brands, on a worldwide basis. And, with a fan base that exceeds half billion and several of its team members that have attained ‘cult status’.
It’s no surprise that this UK-based club’s licensed merchandise, which is globally managed by a subsidiary company of Nike, sold over five million products last year including two million jerseys. Manchester United has 200 licensees in over 130 countries, and it entered India nearly 20 months back, in partnership with Indus League Clothing.
The licensed products here include apparel, accessories, and sports accessories, and to reach the 20 million local fans, an extensive distribution network has been quickly established including 16 exclusive stores, 50 multi-brands stores, as well as e-retailers like Jabong and Myntra.
Apart from licensing, Manchester United had earlier entered into a franchise agreement with Mirah Hospitality, to set up the popular sports bar – Manchester United Café Bars, here. And, these bars which are dedicated to live viewing of this club’s matches, also help fans to experience the ‘real’ game via their signature ‘dugout’ area, ‘Wall of Fame’ and giant screens.
Gaurav Goenka, MD, Mirah Hospitality, highlighted that they plan to expand the number of such Cafe Bars to 25 over the next few years, from four currently.
“Our crew-neck T-shirt is a bestseller”, says Rachna Agarwal, CEO, Indus League, a division of Future Lifestyle
Manchester United is a global icon, and it has an aggressive growth strategy in the Indian market. Rachna Agarwal, CEO, Indus League, a division of Future Lifestyle, which is Manchester United’s India licensee for apparel and accessories, shares her strategy for expanding sports and allied categories here
Manchester United is a global icon. Kindly share your strategy in India?
Rachna Agarwal (RA): Manchester United entered India with its flagship store at Palladium, Mumbai almost 20 months back and the response from fans has been overwhelming. Our store network currently includes 16 exclusive stores and 50 multi-brand outlets.
We have also seen brisk sale of our merchandise across categories, but our crew-neck T-shirt remains the bestseller. Apart from that, our range of accessories includes caps,
socks and bags, amongst others, contributes nearly one-fifth to our overall business, and is also showing strong sales growth momentum.
Kindly highlight your outlook on the Indian licensing market?
The branded retail market plays a major role in licensing, as international brands are taking either the licensing or joint venture route to enter the Indian market. Fast growth is being witnessed especially in categories like apparels and lifestyle accessories, but consumers are also price conscious.
The growth opportunities here are attracting several overseas brands, and the key to success, is to constantly monitor and adapt to changing consumer behaviour. In addition, the social media is playing an increasingly important role on the availability of products and allied information.
How do you deal with counterfeits?
It is a key concern for us and we have stringent manufacturing codes, to enable easy identification of our original product range. In addition, we also have a competent legal team.
Your retail and distribution strategy?
A retailer should be based in the city where there is a sufficient number of fans for Manchester United, as well as cities where football is a growing sport.