With the women’s national team coming off a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and the men’s team poised to qualify for the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1986, soccer in Canada is enjoying what might be it’s most prosperous — and popular — period ever.
But, even while basking in such success, Canada Soccer continues to struggle to produce and sell merchandise to capitalize on the attention the teams have captured.
The governing body signed a “long-term, multichannel retail partnership” with Fanatics in June 2021 to “significantly enhance the shopping experience for fans and provide the widest assortment of Canada Soccer merchandise ever available.” But now, almost eight months later, the selection available on CanadaSoccerStore.com is still limited to hats, T-shirts and jerseys for men, and just T-shirts for women.
And what is available is expensive: As of Jan. 29, the only authentic white away jerseys listed for sale were a blank one for $200 CAD, and one with team captain Atiba Hutchinson’s name and number printed on the back for $250 CAD.
“The team has been performing well and it’s happening relatively fast, the supply of paraphernalia and apparel hasn’t been able to keep up with the surge of attention,” Vijay Setlur, a marketing instructor with Schulich School of Business at York University, told BNN Bloomberg earlier this week. “For the longest time there was little interest in the men’s national team.”
The selection of replica men’s jerseys was only slightly better. There were home red, away white, and black alternate versions available, but the reds were only available in size 2XL, and the whites only in size small. The black jerseys were available in large, XL and 2XL.
Fanatics was charging $110 CAD for blank replicas and $150 CAD for replicas with printed names and numbers.
The kicker is, with the distinctive pattern on the sleeves, the Canada Soccer home red replica jerseys clearly use Nike’s Strike II teamwear template. Similar Strike II jerseys can be found for sale on other retailers’ websites for approximately $44 CAD.
“There are supply chain issues right now but at the same time Nike has other national teams as partners that potentially sell a lot more than Canada, so you don’t want to produce product that’s not going to move,” Setlur told BNN Bloomberg.
“Since demand surged so quickly perhaps they haven’t been able to keep up. Hopefully that improves, however even if Nike does want to increase production those supply chain issues could still be holding them back.”
Canada Soccer, Nike and Fanatics did not respond to BNN Bloomberg’s requests for comment.
But Setlur thinks there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for Canadian soccer fans looking to show their support for the national teams.
“It puts Canada Soccer in a position to make advances in merchandising, so I don’t expect these jersey issues that we’re seeing now will even exist next year,” he said.
Feature photo courtesy CanadaSoccerStore.com