Sports Goods Ride On World Cup Wave

Updated: Jun 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
England is out of the FIFA World Cup 2002, so is Cameroon. But the sports good manufacturing companies sponsoring the soccer gear for these teams Umbro and Puma, respectively find theyve got a foothold in the Indian market.

Umbro products are brought to India by RSH Distribution (India) Pvt. Ltd, the Indian arm of the Singapore based trading house, Royal Sporting House; Puma products are brought by Planet Sports Pvt. Ltd. Both these trading companies are exclusive licensees for the respective brands. And, with India soaring high on World Cup fever, both companies have witnessed encouraging sales over the last couple of months.

Says R D Singh, general manager, RSH Distribution (India) Pvt. Ltd, We launched Umbro products in India last September. But since the beginning, the sales figures, particularly for apparel of the Umbro brand, were higher in north India, specifically in Punjab and Haryana, than other parts of the country. This has been so because people from this part of India visit England the most. And whoever visits England, or has a little interest in football in England, knows about Umbro.

However, competition from more popular brands such as Adidas, Reebok and Nike spoiled the party a bit initially for RSH Distribution. But youngsters in particular are going in for Umbro T-shirts to stand out in the crowd wearing common logos such as Nike or Reebok or Adidas, says Mr Singh.

Like most other sports goods selling companies, RSH Distribution has also rolled out ground level promos such as Get A Umbro Football (Worth Rs 500) Free With Every Two Umbro Apparels. All these promos, coupled with the increased popularity of the England team and its star players such as Michael Owen and David Beckham among Indians, have bolstered sales of Umbro sportswear over the last two months.

Adds Mr Singh, Since the World Cup fever has caught on, our monthly sales of Umbro sports apparel have doubled to 20,000 pieces from 8-10,000 pieces a month earlier.

RSH Distribution also sells soccer balls manufactured by Adidas for FIFA World Cup 2002 through its 15 retail outlets across the country. We have been selling these original soccer balls since March this year and they are priced at Rs 3,000 a piece, says Mr Singh. However, they are not selling in large numbers because of the low popularity of the game in most parts of the country. So far, weve sold only 100-125 pieces.

If you are a keen fan of Michael Owen, you can get yourself the studs (soccer boots) he was wearing during the World Cup matches at RSHs retail outlets. We are now selling the Xai soccer studs (Rs 6,000 a pair) from the Umbro stable, Mr Singh says.

Riding on the World Cup wave, Planet Sports launched Puma sports goods and sportswear in April this year. Till June, the sales figures for Puma products in India have been quite encouraging, says Pradeep S Shekhawat, country manager, Planet Sports Pvt. Ltd. Puma has been the official sponsor of the Cameroon team in this World Cup and we have also been selling the imported Puma Shudoh (a Japanese word which means mastering the soccer) T-shirts and shorts, which the Cameroon players wore during their World Cup matches. These T-shirts and shorts are priced between Rs 600-Rs 1,500 and so far have registered good acceptance in the market.

Planet Sports also sells Puma footwear, including soccer boots (priced between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,500), and Puma apparel (Rs 300-700).

The sales are slightly up in June as compared to the previous two months and the sales are more in north India and Mumbai than other parts of the country, Mr Shekhawat adds.

Though Planet Sports sells other brands such as Adidas, Reebok and Nike, it is now concentrating on Puma, for which it bears exclusive marketing rights in India, though the other brands also witnessed a marginal rise in sales, following the World Cup tempo.

Says Subhinder Singh Prem, executive director, Sales & Marketing, Reebok India, The Reebok soccer tees have done exceptionally well in the Indian market. We have sold as per expectation a whopping 55 per cent.