Love to represent your favorite NFL players and teams, but can’t afford the authentic jerseys? Don’t worry, sports fans – a new Seattle startup is here to help you with a one-stop rental service, and I’ve tested it.
Rep the Squad launched its online sports jersey rental service two months ago, charging customers $ 19.95 per month to receive selected jerseys in the mail, one at a time. When you are done wearing one, you can return it and receive a different jersey as long as you maintain your membership.
I tried the serve before heading to the Seattle Seahawks game against the Los Angeles Rams. It was pretty cool donning a new # 29 Earl Thomas III jersey as I strolled through LAX on my way to the LA Coliseum. Here’s what I learned about this unique (and fun) retail concept.
The idea here is quite simple: to give sports fans flexibility when representing their favorite team or player.
High-quality, officially licensed, authentic jerseys cost over $ 200 – a hefty investment that can be particularly painful when a player is transferred to a new team or when your child exceeds their size in a matter of months.
The business is similar to other heavily funded clothing rental startups like Rent the Runway or Le Tote, which follow a recent trend of consumers to prioritize home ownership, whether using Uber. rather than driving a personal car, or paying Netflix’s monthly fee to stream video content. It also follows a sharing economy model based on new technology that enables the peer-to-peer use of a car, house, or other physical assets.
But, really, sports shirts?
Some leading investors believe the idea will take off.
Investors in Rep the Squad include sports stars such as Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin; Golden Tate, wide receiver for the Detroit Lions; Los Angeles Chargers lineman Russell Okung; and Seattle Mariners legend Edgar Martinez. Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman is a brand ambassador, while venture capitalists such as Madrona Venture Group, Maveron, Aspect Ventures and Curious Capital have invested.
My first Rep the Squad experience went smoothly, and it was great wearing an Earl Thomas jersey in LA and at the game itself. There is something really cool about instantly connecting with other Seahawks fans also wearing jerseys and showing pride in their team / city, especially in enemy territory.
I’ve been a Seahawks fan for over a decade, but haven’t owned an authentic jersey mainly because of the cost. This is where Rep the Squad could be a game-changer.
For $ 20 per month, or around $ 100 for a season, you can wear multiple jerseys – different players, different colors, etc. If you like the jersey enough, you can buy it or just return it.
The company, which grew out of Madrona Venture Labs, launched in late August with Seahawks, 49ers and Lions jerseys. Today it has expanded to include the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders – yes, that means Seahawks fans who lack “Beast Mode” can order a black and silver Marshawn Lynch jersey if they wish.
The startup will be launching NBA jerseys next month, along with MLB next year, said team CEO Brian Watkins, who gave me a tour of the company’s Seattle facilities this week – more at this subject below.
First, though, here’s a quick rundown of how the whole process works.
Other than the cheesy stock image on the homepage – is that an Eddie Lacy jersey, man? – Rep the Squad does a pretty good job with the registration and ordering process.
Once you have created an account, you can choose a jersey and add it to “My locker”. For the Seahawks, there is a large selection of jerseys for current and retired players, with colors ranging from bright Color Rush green to Salute to Service black.
I love the way Earl Thomas plays football – his state of mind; his talent ; his work ethic; its direction. And I like the white Seahawks jerseys. I set my height to “medium” and added it to my locker.
A few clicks later and the jersey was on its way.
I ordered the jersey at 8:05 am on a Monday. Tuesday at 5:36 pm, it was at my door.
I liked opening the box and immediately seeing the “29”. The jersey was wrapped in plastic which gave it a certain ‘new’ feeling, although someone probably wore it before me. It smelled like fresh laundry and had no ketchup or mustard stains. I immediately put it on and felt excited.
The box comes with instructions, or a “game plan,” that shows you how to return the jersey in a prepaid mailbag that ships with USPS. You can add different selections to your locker, and once you’ve returned one jersey another comes out. Rep The Squad takes care of the supply, shipping and cleaning of the jerseys from its warehouse in Seattle.
For me, it was well worth paying $ 20 to wear a jersey to the LA game, especially since I don’t have a lot of other Seahawks gear. The jersey was also particularly useful when I was late for my flight back to Seattle and other Hawks fans let me cut the safety line.
Now I’m wondering what to do with the Thomas jersey and my Rep the Squad membership.
The team rep said I can buy the jersey for $ 90. It sells for $ 150 new, so that’s not a bad deal. I can just cancel my subscription now and be done, but the idea of wearing different jerseys for the rest of the season for an extra $ 20 or $ 40 is intriguing, especially as the service adds more players and sports. .
I visited the team representative’s headquarters just south of CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field in Seattle this week, where the company has a small warehouse that houses its jersey distribution center and office.
USPS makes two stops per day at the facility, dropping off worn jerseys and picking up new ones that are delivered to customers. Rep the Squad ships all orders placed before 3:00 p.m. on the same day. The company has its own washing and drying machines, and of course, many jerseys purchased from various retailers.
Watkins, a longtime Seattle entrepreneur with leadership experience at places like Nordstrom, Ritani, Blue Nile and Wetpaint, said the company has learned a lot since launching in August – everything from how the jerseys are cleaned (residential washers are sufficient); how they are packaged (individually wrapped); to make sure each box stays under 16 ounces (USPS prices go up for anything heavier); the best types of marketing promotions to roll out (events in local bars and coworking spaces are also beneficial).
Watkins noted that he was surprised by the response from customers who post about their jerseys on social media.
“I am blown away,” he said. “I never thought we would have that impact, but people are really excited when they get it.”
– Adam (@ 1Ablod12) Oct. 8, 2017
– #SeahawksForever (@ 12thFanZach) October 2, 2017
– Joshua Grindstaff (@josh_grindstaff) October 14, 2017
There haven’t been many issues with completely damaged jerseys, Watkins said – Rep the Squad can clean basic stains, but will charge customers the full price of a jersey if there is serious and obvious damage. .
Jerseys can withstand a certain amount of liquid material – here’s a rough test Rep the Squad did to gauge the threshold. It came out of the wash like new, but Watkins noted the company doesn’t encourage such behavior.
For those who wish to purchase their jersey, Rep the Squad uses an algorithm that calculates the value of a jersey based on wear and, perhaps more interestingly, a player’s performance on the pitch or whether he will be traded to another team.
“We are using analytics to predict the value of this player next year,” said Watkins.
Watkins, who co-founded the company with Ritani’s former colleague Alex Berg, said the company had several ideas on how to grow the business. It starts by expanding to different sports and leagues – the first NBA jerseys will be available to customers next month, and more cities / teams will be added over time. The company is also planning to open a warehouse on the east coast next year so it can more quickly process orders from customers closer to that side of the United States.
Rep the Squad is also considering different packages – for example, a 3-month subscription option for the holiday season, or allowing customers to rent two jerseys at a time for a higher monthly fee. There are also ideas for going beyond jerseys and bringing other licensed products to sports fans. Then there is the possibility of opening pop-up shops in stadiums or arenas.
More technology will also be used to grow the business, like stitching RFID tags into each jersey to allow for better inventory management and eventual geofencing for unique events, perhaps.
You can feel the excitement of the company’s potential for success when you speak with Watkins.
“These opportunities are not only exciting,” he noted. “They are really achievable.”
Watkins said the reception from manufacturers, leagues, teams and players has been positive.
“Our position is that if we can grow the total jersey market, which means leagues and players earn more royalties and we get more engagement and a better fan experience, why wouldn’t people be not satisfied with us? ” he explained. “The numbers we have at the start show that this is happening. “