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Fanatics Is Ruining Sports Merchandising

If you’re like me, not only do you enjoy your sports, but you have a sizable collection of caps, shirts, hoodies, and other merchandise featuring your favorite team’s logo. If you open the door to my closet, you will find a lot of shirts, hoodies, and the almighty quarter-zip, with a San Jose Sharks logo on it. You will also see an assortment of company logos on that apparel such as Reebok, Nike, Antigua, Starter, and Logo Athletic, just to name a few. The one logo you will never find in my closet is Fanatics.

The Back Story

Up until 2016, I’d never heard of Fanatics. Any Sharks gear I picked up was generally made by Reebok over the last decade or so. I’m sure you all remember the Reebok Edge jersey unveiled back in 2007. Prior to that reveal, Nike, Starter, and Logo Athletic made up the majority of my Sharks apparel. Since the transition to Reebok in 2007, almost every piece of Sharks swag I’ve picked up features a Reebok logo. And I loved it. Reebok could be counted on to produce consistent and quality product. Every shirt fit the same as did every cap.

10 years later, the deal with Reebok is no more. Hell, Reebok is essentially no more. Most people would’ve thought a natural transition to Adidas would make the most sense since Adidas acquired Reebok back in 2005. Instead, the NHL and Fanatics Announced a Long-Term Multichannel Apparel and Retail Partnership.

Why Fanatics Sucks

Look, I get it. Certain things are subjective. Whether it’s the music of a particular band, the call of a certain announcer, or the taste of Jack In The Box curly fries at 2am. To some people, it’s the best and to others, there’s nothing worse. However, the sucking of Fanatics is not subjective. It just is.

TealTownUSA co-host Erik Kuhre recently bought a shirt from “A Fanatics Experience”, shop.NHL.com. This is not an experience I would recommend. After ONE WASH, the artwork is already flaking off. However, we both have shirts we purchased 25 YEARS AGO that are in better condition than this week old Fanatics shirt!

No Quality Control

Prior to Fanatics taking over the Sharks Store in 2017, I was an avid visitor, bordering on habitual. The selection of merchandise was always solid and the quality was always dependable. I could see a shirt or cap with the Reebok logo and wouldn’t even need to try it on. The consistency was so good, I knew it would fit how I expected every time. After the change to Fanatics, there is next to no consistency. You can try on 3 different shirts of the same design and size and each will fit differently. It’s the same with caps. You will also find the material is much thinner (read: cheaper) too. 47Brand is also guilty of this. I expect a shirt to wear down after some years of ownership. I don’t expect to buy it in that condition already. And how can you not get the color teal consistent?

My other issue with Fanatics is that all of their product is homogenized. Have a look at shop.nhl.com and you will find nearly every item, aside from the team logo, is the same. Perhaps if their designs weren’t so uninspiring and dull, the similarities wouldn’t be so pronounced. However, they still have some Reebok inventory available for some items. Take a look at the Reebok branded items and you will see there are designs specific to a particular team. And those designs are just flat out better and more creative.

Lost Revenue

The Fanatics also seems to have a habit of waiting until the last minute to stock items, if they stock them at all, or they simply don’t make enough product to meet demand. Either way, it’s lost revenue. For the unaware, to begin the 2016-2017 season, the Sharks turned over store operations to Fanatics and up until just a couple weeks before the All Star Game, there was next to nothing in the way of All Star merchandise at the Sharks Store. Why? The only All Star jersey available to purchase was Burns. No Pavelski. No Karlsson. WHY?? You’re losing sales!

During the the Fan Fair that ran from Thursday through Saturday over All Star weekend, Fanatics had a huge shop taking up a significant amount of floor space. Before the first day had ended, they were not only sold out of Sharks All Star Emoji pucks, but also the few Pavelski and Karlsson jerseys they actually had. And I hope you like black because there were no white versions. I attended Fan Fair on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I heard several fans on Friday and Saturday asking about pucks and jerseys only to be told they were sold out. How does Fanatics underestimate demand that badly?

What does it all mean?

It means I’m not spending money like I used to on Sharks merchandise! It means fans want to buy merchandise but Fanatics isn’t meeting demand. Again, I cannot state enough that this is not the fault of the Sharks, but of Fanatics and the NHL for signing the deal.

Prior to Fanatics running Sharks merchandise, I would stop into the Sharks store during nearly every game I attended. I always felt as if there might be something new. FOMO is a hell of a drug and I will admit I need my fix on occasion.

Another thing that Fanatics has appeared to have eliminated are clearance racks. Ask anyone in retail and they will tell you getting people into the store is more than half the battle. Those clearance racks also got me to visit the store on game days when I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. They also got me to visit the store more than a few times during the summer because who doesn’t love to find a great deal?

This season, of the 10 games I’ve already been to, I’ve really only visited the store twice. Both times were to check out the new Stealth gear for this season. For the 5 remaining games, I have no desire to visit the Sharks store. I know there will be nothing on clearance and 95% of what’s in the store can be found online so why bother? Fanatics even eliminated the sale of warm-up pucks which were a great memento from a game since paper tickets are now a thing of the past.

I’d be quite interested to know how sales have been over the last 2 years versus the final 2 years before Fanatics took over. I may very well be wrong, but I can’t imagine sales are as good with Fanatics running the store.

What I do know is the reputation of Fanatics is circling the drain further and further. But it’s the team logo featured on the merchandise with a small Fanatics logo. Hopefully soon, teams will realize this poor quality reflects on the team. When I worked for a music company years ago, if our product showed up late or damaged, companies tended to blame us and not the shipping company. Their poor service reflected on our company… so we changed shipping companies.

I guess what I’m trying to say Fanatics is… it’s not me. It’s you.

What’s your take on Fanatics? Leave it in the comments below.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Danny

    February 1, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Fanatics overall is just a bummer. The article hits the nail on the head… what’s worse, for me, is ever since taking over the Sharks Store I am unable to call and place a phone order UNLESS it’s to purchase a jersey. Since I live in the LA area, I used to call in if I learned of an item I had to have, and they’d ship it to me – way to alienate out of town fans. Hopefully this changes at some point in the future.

    • AJ Strong

      February 1, 2019 at 11:23 am

      I completely agree. When I worked for a music company back in the day, easily 30% of our orders came from phone orders to people out of the area. I don’t know that team stores would sell up to 30% through online and phone sales, but it’s lost revenue regardless.

  2. Lisa Schonbrun

    February 1, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Get out of my head! 🙂 Seriously many Sharks fans/friends and I have been saying the same thing! I hounded the Sharks store at SAP for weeks almost daily looking for a Pavs or Karlsson All-Star jersey and I never did see one. I also ordered two of them on the shop.nhl on Jan 14th … only to have one mysteriously cancelled and the other (I ordered 5 hours later) to be still pending and despite multiple calls to the shop can only be told they don’t know if they will ever get inventory. WTH! I showed up at 3:30 on Saturday at SAP to buy the All-Star Sharks hat (the one EK65 wore at skills) only to be told by 5 different stands including club level that they sold out of those very quickly during skills. This is one of many missteps with inventory management. I’m still waiting to get a Stealth scarf because those were gone within 1-2 games and I’ve been told no one knows if they are ever coming back. The store at the tank should have been flooded with all-star merch for the months leading up to the game. Let people buy it early and wear it all over the city…it’s free advertising for the NHL and All-Star game. The inventory issue is making me so crazy I don’t even want to shop for any more Sharks gear. It’s just too frustrating!

    • AJ Strong

      February 1, 2019 at 11:25 am

      It’s dumbfounding to see how poorly Fanatics stocked the store and Fan Fair shop during All Star weekend. How do you not bring at least 5x the amount of Sharks ASG merchandise? The game is in SAN JOSE! So many missed opportunities.

  3. Matthew Winstead

    February 1, 2019 at 11:18 am

    What upsets me the most about Fanatics is they don’t sell the real Authentic jerseys Reebok used to. They call them authentic but they’re far from it. I’ve been collecting every Authentic jersey the Sharks have worn (home and away) since 1991. When teams were wearing patches that year it would automatically come with it. Now you have to buy the all star patch from a different site when you buy a Fanatics “authentic” jersey customized and bring it in with your all star jersey or the regular jerseys won’t come with it and it costs $120 instead of the usual $80 with the Reebok jerseys.

    As for shirts I’ve bought from Fanatics you’re correct about it stuff washing off after just one time! I HATE Fanatics. They’re material is garbage and overpriced.

    • AJ Strong

      February 1, 2019 at 11:26 am

      Are you talking about the reebok authentic that had the neon lining in the collar? I believe those weren’t completely authentic. Those were made in Indonesia while authentic are made in Canada.

  4. Jon Clark

    February 1, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    I dont have the time or energy to type much…. but spot on! As a fan, it’s depressing on many levels.

  5. Doug

    February 1, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    The fan fest store did have 30% on Sunday but that was it. The Sharks teamstore moved all their AS gear to that fanatics store and now you your only option is to buy online.

    I really wanted a Sharks emoji AS shirt but they ran out of those. Now you can’t buy it anywhere else! So frustrating.

  6. Lyndsey

    February 1, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    Finally, someone agrees. Fanatics is horrible. At least 75% of my closet is hockey related. I have a t-shirt from the ’96 all-star game, that is in better condition than 1 from last week’s.

  7. Joe

    February 1, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    This hits the nail on the head but does not even begin to adequately express how much Fanatics sucks. I bought two sweatshirts last year and the logos were misprinted on both of them and the sizing was not even close. I called to get an exchange and the sizing was wrong again and the logos were misprinted again, but in a miraculously different way proving that apparently pasting a logo on a piece of clothing can be difficult for some. I have had entire orders cancelled without notification and no explanation provided. My one piece of advice to fanatics is stop doing everything you are doing and figure out any other way to do it… I promise you it will not be worse.

  8. Amanda

    February 1, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    Overall, everything I have bought is poor quality and I have refused to buy anything from Fanatics due to this. I would happily buy products of my favorite teams in NHL, NFL and MLB if the products were good but the Fanatics products leave the customers wanting. They aren’t even worth it at the constant 65% off emails I receive regularly.

  9. You know my name

    February 2, 2019 at 3:01 am

    Oh how I wish I could have been consulted for this article! Fanatics is costing the team so much in regards to $’s and happiness. I am corporate partner and Suiteowner. I probably spend more than most anyone in that crappy store. When it was the sharks run store I used to be able to ask my customers who their favorite players were and then go down to the store and buy them a pro style jersey with stitched letters, patches and fight straps and make my customers happy. Mind you these Jerseys are usually $275. I did those so frequently that I had a credit in the store for thousands of dollars that I could use as needed. When fanatics took over it took them over an entire season to figure out to let me access my credit. It was so bad that I’m the last night of the season I told the manager I wouldn’t leave the store until he checked me out with my credit. This led to intervention by the sharks .org and the police. I have to say that the sharks are the best and they did everything they could to try and fix the problems I had raised, but unfortunately fanatics is just bad. I bought a half dozen all-star pro jerseys and cannot tell you how ridiculous it is that the all-star patch wasn’t on those jerseys,. We tried for two weeks prior to the event to buy youth size jerseys with sharks logos, to no avail. How happy do you think I am that I had to buy my kid a knights jersey to appease him. How about the fact that fanatics gift cards couldn’t be used, nor any suiteowner discounts etc. at the all-star game. The sharks store used to have unique items that would draw people in before and after games. Remember the pregame warm up pucks that had both teams logos and the date, gone. i could go on and on, But unfortunately fanatics just doesn’t care and I am just getting more and more pissed off thinking about it…

  10. Neebs

    February 2, 2019 at 7:12 am

    Might be a bit off the topic of distribution here but my two cents anyway. Agree with the Fanatics product evaluation….. (can’t comment on the SAP store unfortunately). But I must say I am not a big fan of the thin Reeboks T-shirts either. Much prefer the Majestic Brand when I can get them. Reebok jerseys are the business.

  11. Nick

    February 2, 2019 at 8:21 am

    Hey, just letting you know coolhockey.com is the best in my opinion for buying team gear. I recommend checking them out! Ordered from them twice, quality is way better than Fanatics and cheaper. Great article though. Sad how Fanatics runs things.

    • Chan

      February 4, 2019 at 10:40 pm

      I never heard of coolhockey and its not BBB certified. I dunno about the quality but sweaters seem pricey – $200 for a Boedker?

  12. GTCampbell

    March 15, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    The Fanatics replica jerseys are a huge rip-off, in my opinion. In addition to my Adidas authentic jersey I also happen to own a Fanatics replica jersey also as well as a cheap knock-off jersey made in China that I bought on eBay. The knock-off jersey is much better quality than the Fanatics replica jersey. In fact, if you were to compare it side-by-side with an authentic Adidas jersey, most people would have a hard time distinguishing which one is the knock-off jersey. The knock-off jersey that looks and feels almost identical to the Adidas jersey cost me $50… one-third the price of the cheaply-made $150 Fanatics replica jersey.

    • AJ Strong

      March 15, 2019 at 5:10 pm

      Yeah, you know it’s bad when a Chinese knock-off is better than Fanatics. It’s not surprising though.

  13. Alex

    May 30, 2019 at 8:08 am

    I ended up on this page doing a Google search about how Fanatics is taking over the NHL merchandise. I hate it. I love my Adidas made Avs jersey. I have a 2018 Adidas made Avs Stanley Cup playoffs tshirt that still holds up to regular wear and washes. But for 2019 there was no Adidas gear. It was all either Fanatics or the NHL brand that I don’t know who makes. Adidas still makes jerseys but hats, shirts, hoodies seem to be mostly Fanatics. I don’t mind ’47 brand, I’ll take them any day over Fanatics.

  14. Steve

    June 9, 2019 at 7:40 am

    This article isn’t just for sharks fans — I’m on east coast and I’ve stopped buying my college and pro shirts unless they are under armor or Nike because the overwhelming amount of options are only fanatics — which means they will shrink and flake and be completely useless after one wash and I’ve regretted too many of those purchases to count — so, while I’m sure fanatics sold out on what they are paying the leagues, they had to lower quality so far to produce garbage that nobody should buy and all will lose eventually

  15. JC

    June 16, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    I’ve worked for fanatics and have to agree they do suck big time. They are a lousy company to work for and make employees become slaves. I worked in the Fan Protection dept. Orders going outside of the US we would cancel If they didn’t have order history using a aus credit card. We also did a lot of other things. I BELIEVE they are a company that just cares about profit not employees. If u need anything else let me know

  16. Ginni Linn

    September 27, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    I just ordered a Bruins hoodie from NHL.com. It’s a Fanatics brand. Came today. Horrible. I ordered a women’s large figuring these tend to run small. I could barely even get it on!!! And I’m not a big person. I normally wear a medium. Not only that, the darn thing smells awful and it’s not even soft. I really want a Bruins hoodie, and there are no decent ones to be had. I’m bummed. Looked online to see if anyone else hated this crappy merchandise and saw your article. It’s right on the mark!

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  18. Big Ole Bulldog

    November 2, 2019 at 11:20 am

    Spot on! Fanatics is horrible!!! I bought a custom Georgia jersey a couple of years ago and the name on the back was very poor quality. You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson then, but when I tried to buy another for a different team – Air Force Academy – they were “Almost Gone!” The only size they had left? 3XL. Honestly, not trying to rag on USAFA, but how high a demand for a personalized Air Force jersey could there possibly be? Shameful how literally every online store for every team in America – college and above – has been hijacked by this awful company. #BoycottFanatics

  19. Travis Currie

    November 17, 2019 at 9:06 pm

    I came here after Google searching “Fanatics taking over everything”. I’m up in Canada and I’m a huge 49ers fan. I cannot find anywhere on line to get around these guys. I could order from a Canadian page to avoid hefty taxes and duties but the inventory is maybe 1/6 of what’s available to me on the .com American sites. They advertise big sales, hurry up time is ticking, but the sales are poor snd sometimes when I go to checkout it’s not even applied to some items even though it was advertised. Basically when I add say 2 shirts and 2 hats, by the time I get to checkout it’s not even worth it. I used to be able to order through Lids and hats would ship direct to a store close by me. They’ve axed that now. No matter where I turn I’m buying from Fanatics and I’m paying out my arse. Can’t stand it. Forget these guys

  20. Tracy S

    November 24, 2019 at 5:45 am

    I HATE Fanatics merch. It doesn’t matter if it’s NHL or NFL. I didn’t really have any experience with them until the Blues win the cup and everything is Fanatics. First thing I noticed was no hates are embroidered, everything is ironed on Logos are crooked and quality is anything but good. Recently order a new Niners shirt and after exchanging it 3 times the colors on the front and back still don’t match like they do on the web. None of there probe ya are as advertised and certainly not worth the coin they are charging. I call and complain but I just end up yelling at someone in India who’s name is Bob and is reading from a printed flow chart lol. Very sad

  21. Chris

    November 27, 2019 at 6:16 am

    I’m not a Sharks fan. I’m an Islanders fan from Long Island. However, you are correct. I cannot even find a New Era Cap now. I had no idea they lost their license with the NHL. Fanatics is absolute garbage. When the new jerseys came out in 2017 I wanted an Authentic Adidas. Unfortunately, the slim cut doesn’t work for an American man like me with a Gut. I felt like I was sandwiched in it. So I learned that Fanatics makes the replicas not Adidas and the quality just didn’t make the cut like the logos on the front were not like the old Reebok jerseys. Fanatics is taking over every sport. Where did this company come from? I sure don’t want their merchandise. Who funded this as a startup. We need to get real quality products back!

  22. Danny Rudisill

    December 4, 2019 at 5:38 am

    I purchased what I thought was an authentic Washington Nationals World Series Majestic T-shirt from Fanatics. When I received the shirt, it was a Gildan brand t-shirt with the Majestic logo screen printed under the Gildan tag. It plainly states on their website that the brand of shirt is Majestic, but it was a Gildan 5.3oz brand shirt. It is far inferior to the Majestic shirts that used to be sold. Majestic used to be owned by VF Corporation and when you ordered an official Major League apparel item, you could be assured that it was a Majestic brand shirt. I complained to Fanatics and I got this reply, “Gildan is our supplier for blank shirts, Majestic will print the graphics on the garment. Also, Fanatics and Majestic are one in the same. You could receive Gildan, Majestic, or Fanatics printed on the inside”. I understand that Fanatics bought the Majestic name from VF Corporation recently, but they mention nothing about receiving a Gildan shirt on their website. The brand listed for the shirt that I ordered was “Majestic” and yet I received a Gildan shirt. It wasn’t even Gildan’s best shirt. I wonder if they even still make Majestic brand shirts. They have cheapened the name of Majestic and Major League Baseball. They are simply screen printing that Majestic logo onto a cheap Gildan shirt, which they can get by with because they own the name. They need to be much more forthcoming on their website. They need to tell people that they are not getting the same quality of shirt that they are used to previously when they were authentic Majestic shirts. They are selling cheap t-shirts for exorbitant prices and deceiving the public. This would not have happened if VF still owned the Majestic brand. Major League Baseball needs to take notice of this and take control over their brand. It is not being treated with the respect that it used to.

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