CINCINNATI – The morning after FC Cincinnati defeated Chicago Fire SC in the US Open Round of 16, Amir Shemony got to work to find a surprising number of online orders awaiting his team to process merchandise.
FC Cincinnati’s merchandise manager had seen the club do impressive things in terms of sales in the year he was on staff, but walking on June 29 to find 300 orders was just another sign that the brand continues to develop.
âThe club was so hot last year, there was concern that there was a lull (in sales), but we didn’t see it,â said Shemony, who worked for Ralph Lauren for 17 years.
About 80 percent of those orders were shipped outside of the Cincinnati area; However, the popularity of the second-year United Soccer League club is evident as you walk around the city.
Fans in orange and blue gear can be seen throughout the region, even on non-game days, and this week there was a scramble for FC Cincinnati’s white gear ahead of Sunday’s âWhite Outâ game against the Richmond. Kickers at Nippert Stadium.
“It’s funny because my cousin ridiculed me because ‘it’s just football and Cincinnati is a Bengals and Reds town’, but now he’s even looking for FCC gear,” Jim Gegner said, resident of Amelia, holder of a season pass and member of the Die Innenstadt Supporters’ Group. âIt’s crazy. You can’t go anywhere without seeing something from FC Cincinnati, whether it’s merchandise or a gift.
According to club president and general manager Jeff Berding, FC Cincinnati recorded $ 1.6 million in merchandise sales in its first year, nearly tripling the goal of $ 600,000.
This ranked first among clubs in USL and FC Cincinnati remains on track to surpass that in year two.
âIt’s way beyond the revenue numbers because it’s about creating a brand, a compelling brand, a believable brand that people are proud to be associated with,â Berding said. âIt’s just a testament to the soccer movement here in our community that so many people are looking to purchase FC Cincinnati merchandise to wear around town. This is a testament to the enormous appeal of the FC Cincinnati brand.
Sales were so strong around this time last year that FC Cincinnati hired Shemony to help meet demand and ensure the products remain attractive to fans.
Stepping into his current role, Shemony was immediately impressed with what he saw happening on the FC Cincinnati merchandise side, where he now leads a four-person team.
âIt’s fantastic,â Shemony said of last year’s sales figures. âThat’s more than half of what MLS teams do per year. We are # 1 in USL and the demand for products is incredible.
Shemony said the groundwork has been laid well by those already in place before him, but that he has made efforts to improve some things in terms of point of sale and merchandise assortment.
Improvements were made to a revamped online system to make the website more functional, upgraded point-of-sale software to help reduce the time people queue at Nippert Stadium merchandise stalls and the opening of a new store in the city center.
âThe store is four times the size of our old one, it has changing rooms and you don’t have to wait outside to get in,â Berding said. âIt adds credibility to our growth as a franchise as we have moved from the sales area on the first floor of our offices to now across the street with a legitimate professional retail store, which people who travel tell me. that there is no such thing in USL and that it would certainly compete with some of the members of MLS.
Gegner frequented the new store and the online store and said the most important thing he noticed with the two was the extensive options for merchandise.
He owns over 30 FC Cincinnati clothing and accessories, some of which were purchased in the former sales area below the club’s offices and others from authorized dealers such as Koch Sports and CincyShirts.
âIt was a bit difficult to shop in the old storefront, but the new store really opened up some options and they also expanded the online store,â Gegner said. âThey didn’t have shorts last year, so I took a few; they have more scarves this year and of course different polo shirts and a different line with sweat jackets and things like that. It’s much better.”
This year, FC Cincinnati have brought in Nike Authentics – a lot of Dri Fit training-style gear similar to those worn by the team – and added their own FCC-branded items that are more of “new fashions and news. designs, âaccording to Shemony.
FC Cincinnati also sells basic clothing for fans and the scarves are a popular item with 10 different options available.
Jerseys have been a particularly popular item, especially with the customization option added this year, but FC Cincinnati chose a uniform (known as a football kit) that Nike ditched last year. In order to get another year of their kits, the club ordered around 6,000 more for Year 2 in September 2016 without knowing what the demand would be and have already sold the main home kits.
Nike will unveil new graphics-encrusted digital kits this month, Shemony said. FC Cincinnati will soon start planning their shirts for next year.
âWe just need to keep growing the business and stay relevant,â Shemony said when asked what the goals were for the future. âAfter the season, it’s about staying relevant during the holiday season, so we’ll have some special holiday products, including some decoration this year, and the props are always fun.
The club orders spring and fall merchandise to keep things cool.
Shemony said Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest days for sales, especially after 5 p.m. as people disperse around the city center after work. The store is open until 6:00 p.m. most days and until 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays, a change from the shorter hours last year.
FC Cincinnati also has a dozen “major licensing partners,” Shemony said, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Rally House, CincyShirts and Koch Sporting Goods. The club collects royalties on anything sold and all items are approved by the team as part of the licensing agreement.
âAnyone who buys our stuff is a traveling billboard for us, so we want to be relevant and have fun,â Shemony said.
Gegner has said he’s not done buying FC Cincinnati gear, and it looks like many fans just can’t get enough of the Blue and Orange.
âThey cater to sports fans with it all because it’s all right at your fingertips,â Gegner said. âThey’re very mindful of their marketing, like they’re having a promotional event, like this upcoming ‘White Out’, they know they have to have something in the store for people to hang onto. It’s great to see that they develop as the popularity of the sport increases. It’s fun for me as a fan to see and be a part of it.