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The Business of Selling Online: Third Party Sellers

Last week we started our series on the business of selling MLS and WPS merchandise online.  The first post looked at sales through official websites for the leagues and teams.  You can view that post here.  Today, we will take a look at third party sellers of MLS merchandise.

We started with a simple Google search for “soccer jerseys” and the first hit was WorldSoccerShop.com.  The site had a full selection of MLS gear, including the 2010 jerseys.  Pricing for 2010 jerseys was the same as on the league site, although WorldSoccerShop.com offered a significantly lower price for 2009 jerseys than was offered on MLSnet.com.  In addition, MLSnet.com was not offering 2010 youth jerseys which were available on the third party seller.  One important note, MLS apparently has the jerseys ready to ship, whereas, the third party seller was calling these “pre-order” items.  The site also had WPS 2010 apparel, with a slightly smaller selection than available on the league page.  The interface was easier to use on WorldSoccerShop.com than either of the league pages. Checkout procedures were virtually identical.

Back to Google and on to soccer.com/eurosport.  Here the interface was much worse than those discussed above.  Pricing was the same for most MLS gear, however the website was offering $7 dollars off 2010 MLS jerseys for those in the soccer.com “goal club”.  The goal club requires a one-time $24.99 fee.

Amazon.com had a very limited selection of MLS apparel, none of it particularly recent.  While most soccer fans wouldn’t go to Amazon.com for MLS gear, it is quite likely that parents of kids who express interest in soccer and MLS might go there first.  Thus, the lack of a presence on the premier online retailer is probably detrimental to the league.   Finally, we went to the Dick’s Sporting Goods page because of the  retailer’s long association with the league.   The 2010 jerseys are not being offered at Dick’s and there was a fairly limited selection of MLS merchandise.  Interestingly, the offerings were not consistent from team to team and we found navigating the page to be a bit challenging.

Overall, it appears that there are a large number of third party retailers where MLS and WPS gear is available online.  Where one shops likely comes down to preference, as there is not a significant price difference among the retailers.  In our next post on this topic, we will look at the re-sale and discount markets.