PantherU

Pounce needs a ‘Locker Room’

Just a note before I begin: I’ve been told that our athletic department can sell merchandise to the general public.

Last night, following the latest beat down taken by the basketball team, our group took a little time to walk over to Bucky’s Locker Room, the pro shop inside the Kohl Center.  What we saw was, simply put, a great thing that our athletics program is sorely missing.

Bucky's Locker Room is the one-stop shop for all Badger apparel.

Hockey apparel.  Basketball apparel.  Football apparel.  Alumni apparel.  Can coozies in the shape of a hockey jersey. Mini goalie helmets.  A corner for only winter clothing.  A section for jerseys (replicas that look like the real thing).  A kid’s section, complete with children’s books, bibs, and everything a kid would want.  All within a 30 by 70 foot space.

Now, what’s our current situation?  The bookstore is the only main supplier of athletics apparel, with stores such as Foot Locker, Champs and Lids carrying minimal to no Panther apparel.  Want a trinket like a felt banner with the Milwaukee conference championships on it?  You can’t find it anywhere, but Bucky’s Locker Room had one for hockey, basketball and football.  Little things like that aren’t carried by the bookstore, but many Panther fans would find a $10 thing like that popular.

Currently, the bookstore has its on campus location and a web site, which is very poorly put together and does not come close to putting their full inventor online.

But here’s my problem.  If, as I’m told, the athletic department is allowed to sell merchandise without having to get the license, why aren’t we doing it?  What are we supposed to do to eliminate our debt if we’re not taking care of obvious solutions like this one?

I’ve put this idea on the board before, but I think it deserves to be included here.  At Miller Park’s home plate entrance, the team installed a new shop right at the wall.  There’s no ceiling on top, just a glass wall surrounding the shop itself for game days.  At Milwaukee, we’ve got the Klotsche Center – admittedly, we don’t have a lot of events there, like the 81 games at Miller Park each season.  But we do have swimming and diving, volleyball, and women’s basketball games in the Klotsche Center, which total around 50 events per year.  Add in the three men’s games there this year, and all of a sudden we’ve got a lot of parents, fans and students coming through the arena.  Don’t forget the thousands of people that work out in the Pavilion every day, and the only entrance is right by the front of the athletic department doors.

So why don’t we take that home plate idea and bring it to Milwaukee?  The glass facade of the Klotsche Center has doors on the right hand side of it, and nothing on the left.  What if the doors inside, instead of empty, unused space to the left, a glass wall followed all the way to the stairs, then enclosed off there?  Even with a bit smaller area, there’s not much else that’s going on in that space, and the athletic department could fill it up with inventory rather quickly.

What’s stopping us from doing this?  Absolutely nothing.  I’m sure this is up to fire code, and if it’s not you can minimize the size of it.  It’s not staffing, because such a store could be run by the ticket office, which operates 15 feet away.  It’s not security, as the entrance to the place could be set in front of the Klotsche Center front desk.  So what is it?

Who knows.  I just know that merchandise needs to be sold soon because there’s money to be made, and the athletic department can use the space there for a more permanent home.  Hell, even a satellite home in the union would be a good place if we end up making good money out of it.

Nike learned long ago that if you want your brand out there, you have to put it on the people. That’s why from the mid-’80s on, you see that swoosh on everything.  So let’s get our brand out there and start making money.  It’s a damn good thing to do.

6 Comments

  1. MWU

    December 10, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    The Dept should also consider giving the bookstore the boot out of the cell. If athletics decides to sell it’s own merch. they should be taking the arena booths back, the bookstore has put forth such a sorry effort over the years they don’t deserve to continue selling at our events.

  2. Oberto

    December 12, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    I like the idea. I think the AD should man the merch at the Cell or at least coordinate with the Bookstore.

    And it’s probably money, but why is the Bookstore so slow to put out gear with our new “Milwaukee” wave or single block letter “M” (with the Panther on the side) logo? 90% of the merch in there is the old belt buckle logo with purple coloring on the panther logo (wack). Not to mention (obviously cluelessly designed* in China) shirts that say “Wisconsin Panthers Milwaukee” and crap like that. How hard is it to standardize your branding?

    I like both of those and can’t find any sweatshirts or ls tees. I’m dnoe Christmas shopping but the Bookstore would have gotten at least $100 from me if they had updated merchandise.

    Sell the old stuff or give it away to charity. continuing to sell it only hinders efforts to push the branding and the new logos.

    *I don’t know who is in charge of purchasing for the Bookstore but they need to realize they are actively hurting our branding/image development.

  3. Oberto

    December 12, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    And when we have an on-campus arena, a non-bookstore Panther apparel and accessory store is a must.

    Put it right across from wherever the arena goes.

  4. Erik Hemming

    December 13, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Jimmy, et al,
    Thanks for bringing up the issue. (Actually, a host of issues.)

    I think I’m probably in a unique spot to address the criticisms you–and subsequent responders–pose, since I was part of the extended management team at the University Book Store in Madison when we created and opened Bucky’s Locker Room. ( I worked at the University Book Store for fifteen years.) For the last four years, I’ve been the Director of the UWM Bookstore. Plus, as Director of the UWM Bookstore, I sit on the Branded Merchandise Oversight Committee. Finally, with many other folks, I’ve been working on launching the M, and the new versions of Pounce for roughly three of the four years I’ve been here.

    So, I’m pretty personally involved….

    Let me begin by simply agreeing with you: Bucky’s Locker Room is great. I’d love to open a Pounce’s Locker Room here. Particularly at an on-campus, arena-based spirit shop. On UWM soil. (The spot you mention in Klotsche sounds good.) It’s one of the reasons I was–and continue to be– interested in being a part of UWM. The opportunity for expanding the excitement and buzz about Pounce, UWM athletics, and UWM is TREMENDOUS.

    That being said, we also have to be real about differences. While we want the world to be excited about UWM, we can’t simply will it so. In particular, we can’t make them buy UWM branded goods. We have to develop the UWM brand through careful and diligent attention to the fans who love it…and to the needs of the folks who might come to love it. Which takes time, planning and luck.

    In the last 60+ years, Bucky/Madison has grown enviably and un-naturally large in a state that, for all practical purposes, fields only two football teams: One collegiate, red and white, and one professional, green and gold. And because of this, an extraordinary number of resources and opportunities are channeled their way. I can say this, definitively, because, for most of two decades, I was the beneficiary of this un-natural state. Some of the products you saw and note in Bucky’s Locker Room were developed with my input by companies who BEGGED to be permitted to produce them. Because of the un-natural market, some people were willing to mortgage their house to make Badger stuff. Is it sane? No. Is it a wonderful luxury as a merchant? Absolutely.

    The differences are substantial. Instead of requiring Madison to pay for the manufacture of 288 or 500 or 2,000, up front–as they often do for UWM– manufacturers will approach Madison with products made “on spec.” This means, the manufacturer invests the time and money to make the product without the approval of the merchant, because they believe the product will sell, no matter what.

    (They’re not always right. But whether they’re right or not, it saves the merchant time and money.)

    As much as I wish that for UWM, we are not there yet. Which means, we simply do not have the access to the full range of products that Madison can access. As much as it irks me to say so, it is simply true.

    At trade shows, manufacturers are excited to see me when I say I’m from Wisconsin, and show me items they have made for my purchase, which they are certain I will love…all in red and white. The minimum purchase is a dozen. If I like the product, I tell them I’m a Milwaukee Panther and our colors are black and gold, and ask if they can do one just like that with our logo and colors. The answer is usually some variation of “Sure! it will be a special run. You’ll need to order a thousand. Fifty percent down.”

    But sometimes it’s simply, “So sorry, no.”

    I will give you a concrete example: Two years ago, Madison’s University Book Store opened a store in Brookfield that sold gear from Madison, Milwaukee and Marquette. While it continues to be a profitable store today, it stopped selling UWM gear roughly a year ago. While I don’t know the reasons it stopped selling UWM gear, for certain, I know that my former employers are good business folks. My only assumption is that they could not sell UWM gear profitably.

    Why is that? Lower demand and higher production costs, generally. If you believe it is because the designs the Bookstore offers don’t hit the latest trends, or that we hold onto designs past their useful shelf life, I appreciate the comment. I urge you to take up the matter with the Branded Merchandise Committee.

    The Bookstore regularly offers the latest trending designs to the committee and often receives a considered, reasoned rejection. While I cannot speak for the committee, I think I am accurately stating the general consensus of the committee is that UWM should maintain most of the older designs while we are adding new ones. We are often required to go slower and behave in a more conservative manner than we–as merchants– would wish. It’s often simply an issue of stabilizing and thoughtfully managing UWM’s brand by committee, rather than by market.

    Right now, the “belt-buckle” Panther logo is fading and the new designs are ascendant. But, to maintain UWM’s right to defend their copyright, we produce some items with marks that are “less current.” To offer new, current looks, we often have to make garments that do not use UWM logos, because it is impermissible, for a variety of reasons, to manufacture a new look with official UWM marks. (Thus, the origins of the offending “Wisconsin Panthers Milwaukee” items.)

    Often, we can’t make really low-cost stuff. UWM demands and employs a high degree of accountability about the conditions under which garments and UWM products are produced. To get those assurances, and to make certain that the good we get are socially responsible and sweat-shop free, we generally have to spend a little more. Which means that, of necessity, the UWM/Panther logoed material costs more than a comparable product without the logo.

    But,we try to offer bargains whenever we can. And we always stock a “Value” line of garments that work in most folk’s budget.

    In regard to our website, you’re right about it showing off less inventory than we carry. But that’s mostly because very few combination brick and mortar/online stores have total congruity between what’s in-store and what’s online. It’s often two different groups of people, and we try to hone what is in each to meet the needs of the customers we find there.

    If you dislike the web design, that’s okay, but I’d like to hear your concrete criticisms. I think it’s great leaps better than when I arrived. The design is receiving national attention and praise among collegiate vendors. Year after year, it’s continually up in sales over the prior year in most or all categories. It harmonizes UWM’s desire to have a UWM branded website while making it as friendly as we can to shop and provide information. It is also, to the best of my knowledge, the second most visited website on the uwm.edu domain after the splash page. Plus we add new stuff daily, sometimes hourly.

    The Cell: Any item sold in the Cellular arena must be sold by the licensed concession holders, Levy Entertainment, for a rather high fee, or if sold by an outside vendor–the Bookstore–a stiff percentage of the selling price must be given to Levy.

    Under my tenure, I permitted Levy to sell for the first two years, and thought our presence in the Cell was abysmal. We lost money. It looked shoddy. The fans got a poor experience. (I profusely apologize for the second year, 2008.)

    So, in 2009, we revamped the look, moved the store, added more current product that supports the Athletic Department, and staffed the booth with UWM Bookstore personnel who continually change the store to reflect Cell patron requests. I really think it looks better and provides better service. (If you don’t, and have concrete criticisms, or just have some ideas you would like to share, I truly would like to hear them. You’re welcome to communicate with me directly at hemmingc@uwm.edu or post a new thread on our UWM Bookstore Facebook page.)

    This year, we’ve been doing more sales at on-campus athletic events–Klotsche. It’s been a growing, but generally good working partnership. We hope our role there continues to grow organically.

    When you say, as above, that the Athletic department can sell UWM goods without obtaining UWM approval or license, you are simply in error. If they are doing this, they are violating UWM Branded Merchandise rules. My first assumption is that this is simply a point of mis-understanding. They can’t, and they wouldn’t..

    If they choose to do so, they can–and DO–produce UWM gear which is NOT FOR SALE, and may be either given away or worn solely for court or official use. But they can’t sell it. (So, a court jersey that has not passed the Branded Merchandise process cannot be “legally” sold. They can’t sell it, and I can’t produce or sell it)

    In recent years, the Athletic department has been increasingly helpful in aligning the on-court brand with UWM branded merchandise standards. (To the point where, soon, we may have a court jersey that is actually street-legal.) Athletics has always had a standing member on the committee. Right now, it’s LeVar Ridgeway. He’s been a great partner and representative for Athletics. All of the athletic merchandise licensed and sold–not SOLD to consumers, but SOLD to merchants, like the UWM Bookstore–makes money for the Athletic department. This is true for ANY version of the UWM Panther, and ALL of the recently developed marks. So, without action or investing money for production, the UWM Athletic department makes money with each garment and officially produced item. If it isn’t licensed, it doesn’t make Athletics a dime. To suggest that the UWM Athletic Department could run a shop like Bucky’s Locker Room–without licensing the goods– to make MORE money than they are currently receiving fundamentally misunderstands both the politics and the economics of the endeavor.

    UWM Athletics is fabulous at athletics. They foster student athletes in a way that is simply stellar, and should be the envy of most of collegiate athletics, nationally.

    Given that, and to be brutally frank: Who cares about the merchandise? What they are doing for the students of UWM and people of Wisconsin is better. Let them do what they do best. Let us do what we do best.

    For them to make a shirt and try to sell it is to misuse state funds. As it would be irresponsible of me to stage athletic events or train athletes.

    All of that being said, we can do something to make our brand better.

    Each day I’ve worked here at UWM–and many days I haven’t– I’ve worn something with UWM on it. Sometimes I’m in full regalia–with new Pounce, old panther logos, UWM, shirts, pants, tie and cummerbund all arrayed with Panthers. But sometimes it’s just a belt. But I’m ALWAYS flying the colors.

    When the new VC of Student Affairs, Michael Laliberte, got here from Boise, he noticed–as I noticed when I arrived from Madison– that wearing UWM colors was comparatively uncommon. He thought we should try to change that. I agree.

    In my tenure here, I honestly believe I have seen UWM and Panther gear increase on campus. I believe, over time, that we can make it as common as red and white is in Wisconsin. But we need to propagate the habit.

    When we rolled out the new designs, you saw the Chancellor’s cabinet wearing them. If you’re a fan reading this page, fly the colors at least once a week. If you don’t like the stuff we’re selling, wear black and gold. (If you want to see the stuff we sell get better, speak up about what you want.)

    Or come work for us. Almost every garment we sell has student input. (Some of the stuff we sell isn’t for students and can reasonably be purchased by 40-somethings, unaided.) The students who work here sit with our buyers and have ongoing input when we choose what we buy. We wouldn’t do it any other way. We regularly bring our student staff to the Branded Merchandise Committee meetings. Again, we wouldn’t do it any other way. Students should be part of shaping our brand.

    In short, we care a great deal about making the brand better. Instead of bashing the Bookstore, or lamenting what we don’t have yet, what are your ideas to get the brand out there and to make it better?

    “If you build it, they will come”, worked only once, in a Field of Dreams…

    What are the real things we can get done to make this the monster-brand it ought to be?

    Let’s start simple: Just wear it.

    Erik Hemming

    • Erik Hemming

      December 14, 2010 at 1:56 am

      In paragraph 15, above, I wrote “copyright” when I meant “trademark.” A hazard in coming from a business where copyright is the primary means of asserting intellectual ownership….

      • Jimmy Lemke

        December 14, 2010 at 2:13 am

        No problem…I’m just damn excited to finally get some concrete answers from people. You will have to wait a couple days for a full response, though, as I need to get to sleep and I’m road tripping it to DePaul tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *