Everton has long been The People’s Club, but it is also an international club nowadays that has been growing with the surge of Premier League viewership across the globe. This holds true even more so in the USA, where the club has been steadily growing a rabid fanbase thanks to the number of American players that have plied their trade at Goodison Park.
However, despite the best efforts of Everton USA, who have done yeoman’s work in trying to organize all the fan groups in North America and get them club merchandise, organize meet-and-greets and even two trips across the pond to make the pilgrimage to watch the Blues playing at Goodison Park, there is more the club needs to do especially on the merchandising front.
The Toffees have a kit distribution deal with a firm called Kitbag, signing a a 10-year £30m kit and merchandising deal with the worldwide sports retailer. As the Echo put it, “Everton handed over the running of their entire merchandising operation to an outside company”.
What this meant was that Everton kits could be purchased in two physical stores in the city. But despite having fans in far flung places like the USA and Australia thanks to international players, their only way of obtaining Toffees merchandise was online through the club website.
The guaranteed income of £3m per year might have made sense back in 2009 when the ten year deal was signed, but the club mind-numbingly chose to extend the deal by a further four years in 2014 when Everton’s star seemed to be rising with their Europa League campaign.
Early last year, Kitbag was purchased by the American sports merchandise firm Fanatics for about £11.6m with hopes for Blues in the United States that this would make club merchandise more accessible. However, all it did was become easier for most of Kitbag’s other clients Manchester United, Chelsea, Sunderland, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Celtic, and Borussia Dortmund to distribute their kits and souvenirs, with the Everton side of the operation continuously plagued by errors and issues.
Fan group @SoCalEverton, representing the Blues in the Southern California region, captured that frustration in a series of tweets yesterday as Toffees worldwide scrambled to find Wayne Rooney kits to commemorate the return of Everton’s prodigal son, only to be left empty-handed and dejected.
It says Fanatics 20x behind Rooney and Koeman, but instead UmbroUSA is pointing to another online retailer for a 50% markup. What is that?— SoCaliforniaEverton (@SoCalEverton) July 10, 2017
And forget about actually walking into a store and seeing/touching/trying on the shirt. You take a guess at a size, pay your money and pray.— SoCaliforniaEverton (@SoCalEverton) July 10, 2017
Basically what we're saying is... pic.twitter.com/7sggGLRo1s— SoCaliforniaEverton (@SoCalEverton) July 10, 2017
We want Everton to grow here in the USA. But there are unnecessary barriers that make this way too difficult.— SoCaliforniaEverton (@SoCalEverton) July 10, 2017
With the return of Wayne Rooney, Everton’s marketing opportunities will skyrocket, but if not managed properly, this could backfire as well just when the club is finally showing the ambition and drive of a top six club in the Premier League.
We’ll leave with a cautionary note to Everton - in time, the suffering of your people will persuade you to see our point of view. Just hope it will not be too late by then.