Neil Rider, founder of the Serious Sports Group, picks out 10 things to consider when choosing the right cricket clothing supplier.
Choosing the right sportswear supplier to kit out your cricket team can often be a complex and difficult decision and there are lots of things you should consider before spending your own, your teammate’s and sometimes your parents’ money!
The main reason that the personalised sportswear market exists is so that when the cricket team you play for takes to the pitch you not only look like a team, but you have created an identity that showcases who you are. This can include team colours, club logos, names and numbers on the back or even a local sponsor, all of which gives you your own team brand identity.
Cricket teamwear, when it’s not pristine whites, has historically been made in very traditional colours with limited choice (normally Navy, Forest Green and Maroon), and the methods of purchasing have in the past varied depending on your location with the options limited to a physical cricket shop, an embroidery and printing company, or simply just knowing a friend who knows someone that can get some team kit for everyone.
Up to this point, cricket team kit has often been the responsibility of one person, who is almost always not a specialist in the field and so can often end up with a garage or lounge full of leftover kit, or the wrong sizes of garments which take an eternity to get rid of. By the time you do, the kit has also probably gone out of ‘fashion’ and it is time to start the whole process again! We often hear of customers who think they are making money for their team on the club kit as they charge everyone an extra pound for each item. But when you hold stock for your cricket club, anything that is left over then costs you money,
At Serious Cricket we have been delivering personalised team kit to over 1,000 cricket teams like yours for the past 15 years. Our experience is that when selecting a new cricket teamwear supplier you should consider the following 10 key things:
1 – The process of making personalised team kit
A lot of suppliers will take your bulk order and then, once you have agreed on the designs and found the person in your club who has the copy of the club logo, go and source the product from outside of the UK. This can often increase the manufacturing times and means that suppliers have no control of the production quality. While lots of factories abroad have been making kit for a while, meaning the quality is often OK, that still removes the opportunity to ‘top up’ your cricket team kit as there will be minimum order quantities required. This is not ideal if you are the one person dishing out kit from your garage and you run out of medium-sized match shirts, as you are likely to be without them for the rest of the season, leaving you with a grumpy teammate who can’t get hold of a shirt that fits.
An alternative for some teams or suppliers is sourcing their own garments. They might buy a set of plain Adidas shirts and then get them personalised using a separate embroidery or printing company, as they do not often have this facility ‘in house’. Again, this creates longer waiting times and can increase the cost of items, with the supply chain now involving a few different people. It is also difficult to go back and get the same or similar shirts the following year.
At Serious Cricket we have invented a much simpler solution to purchasing team kit, launching the first online team store platform over a decade ago whereby a cricket team can simply select its range of garments, personalise items with team logos and sponsors and have it hosted in one webshop online for individual members to order anytime regardless of the season. Not only does this mean teams do not need to hold stock themselves, but all orders are produced and dispatched within five working days. This solution is possible as all the garments are made, embroidered and printed by hand at our premises in the UK.
Our biggest recommendation when you are selecting your new cricket teamwear provider is to use a supplier that will operate an online team store platform for free for you, and which manufactures everything in-house as they are then in control of the production, quality and lead times.
2 – Lead times
This is normally the most critical factor when ordering kit. In an ideal world, you might think of ordering a new cricket kit eight to 12 weeks before the season starts, but given this is normally about Christmas time, it tends to slip through the net. If someone in the club is very organised and can get the whole squad to commit and pay this far in advance, then it might be possible. Otherwise, you should consider using a supplier that offers an online store platform which can usually offer a one-to-two week lead time on all cricket kit.
3 – Longevity
Your teammates will not thank you if the kit you choose for 2021 is no longer available to buy in 2022. This will mean a new teammate, or the player who is guaranteed to lose their shirt (there is at least one in every club), or the one who frames their season-winning kit to hang in the office, can no longer get a matching team playing shirt. Always check before switching supplier that your kit choice will be available for the time frame you need.
When moving to a new supplier who is not using their own brand of kit, or is a re-seller of a large sportswear brand such as Nike, Adidas or New Balance, be aware that they will not be able to control the longevity of kit. Should their supplier of kit have any stock issues, this will then directly affect your kit supply.
Don’t be frightened of asking for some written confirmation that your chosen kit style will remain available, or even entering into a supply contract with your supplier. At Serious Cricket we ask teams to enter a three-year agreement as this not only gives the team organiser longevity in their kit choices, it also allows us to balance out how much stock we need to make and hold to service all the cricket teams we supply.
Particularly at the recreational level of cricket, parents will thank you for not changing the kit every year, unlike some Premiership football teams. In our experience, it often takes teams a full 12-month cycle until everyone in the squad is fully kitted out in the new team range. The main point of a cricket team kit is that you all look the same on and off the field and have a team brand identity. Keeping the same kit for multiple years allows you to do this.
4 – Price
This is often a challenge as not all team members will want to break the bank to look the part. As with everything you purchase, however, if a kit is really cheap, it may not last long, meaning you will be replacing items most seasons, and players may not want to wear it, so you need to find a suitable balance. When looking at different cricket club clothing suppliers, try and look across a range of garments, even though the cricket playing kit is often the most purchased item. Some suppliers will allow individuals to further personalise items by adding names, numbers and initials – these often come at an extra cost, and are invariably cheaper when done by a company in-house with the equipment to do it.
Some online platform suppliers allow you to ‘mark up’ team items to add a small contribution to your club funds. Be aware that this will inflate the end cost to the team member. Another option is to ask suppliers if they offer a rebate scheme, but this may be linked to how much you spend.
5 – Minimum order quantities
If you have looked after your team kit requirements in the past, you will realise that it is not an exact science. Apart from choosing an option with an online ordering platform, this is our biggest recommendation to consider. Once the excitement of a new kit launch has passed, you are almost certainly left with one disorganised member who is wanting to order the one match shirt that you have not got left. A cricket teamwear supplier that can take repeat orders with no minimum quantities comes into their own at this point. Again, this will only be possible by using someone who manufactures everything in house or carries a vast amount of branded stock.
6 – Colour choice and team kit selection
When choosing new team kit, ideally you will be looking for one sportswear company that can produce not just on-field playing kit, but also off-field kit that you can turn up to games in, wear for training or in the bar after a match or simply lounge around in at home. A good rule of thumb here is that you do not want to offend anyone with your teamwear colour choice – hence you don’t see many bright yellow tracksuit bottoms and hoodies around, but you will see them in darker colours such as black & navy but with a hint of colour on them. It is likely that whichever training kit you go for will be part of a stock-range garment from a supplier. This is likely to be more readily available too.
On the pitch is where you can be a bit more creative and bolder with your colour choice, particularly if your league plays in coloured cricket clothing or you want a standout coloured T20 match kit. Often teams might have a main club colour that historically they have always been associated with, and this could be the starting point for a new match kit. Good sportswear suppliers will either have a stock range of the main club colour match kits or, for those looking for something more advanced and unique, look out for the suppliers that offer a ‘Bespoke Made’, ‘Made to Order’ or ‘Kit Builder’ service. When buying from these suppliers, the kit will often be sublimated, allowing you to completely design your own playing coloured cricket kit from scratch. The process of sublimation allows the design to be fully dyed into the fabric, doing away with printed and embroidered logos and giving you a completely unique looking playing kit.
Check out the Serious Cricket Kit Builder if you want to have a play creating your own designs!
A word of caution: designing, manufacturing and producing sublimated team kit is a time and labour-intensive process. Over the years at Serious Cricket we have refined our dedicated production team doing this all year round in the UK and can now offer bulk orders in 3-4 weeks with no minimum order top-ups in 1-2 weeks. However, we are one of the very few companies using this process of manufacturing in the UK; the majority of teamwear suppliers will do this abroad creating longer lead times of 4-6 weeks, without the ability to offer no minimum order quantities.
7 – Manufacturer and quality
How important to your teammates is the brand of kit you wear? Do you have to be wearing Adidas or New Balance or given the points above and any number of recent headaches, is there scope for some flexibility?
In every cricket team up and down the country there will always be someone in the side who thinks they are the next Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer or Heather Knight. They will want to look like them and play like them, and wearing the same kit as their heroes can help them do that.
There is certainly some pride that goes along with wearing a national team supplier’s kit; it can be seen as a prestigious uniform amongst your peer groups. The quality of this kit is likely to be good and the duration of it should match. The disadvantage of using a ‘big brand’ manufacturer is that they don’t work directly with local recreational cricket teams; their priorities are with national organisations, high profile professional sports teams and global leisurewear. This will then leave you in a situation of working with a local supplier who must source the kit. The design and colour choice can then be limited and there is no guarantee on longevity and kit availability.
If you are looking at using a cricket specific brand or a smaller local brand, or even an unbranded range of teamwear as your next kit choice, then often you can ask for samples of kit. Don’t be worried if you are charged for them – most suppliers will credit you back on return. Otherwise, if everyone asked for a free sample, that’s a lot of free kit being given away. You will be surprised by the quality of these kits as they are often made using similar fabric choices and using the same manufacturing processes as the big brands. Always remember that it is your brand identity that should come ahead of the manufacturer anyway as it is your cricket team kit
You are never going to please everyone with the kit choice you make. It is a no-win situation and our experience suggests that eight players don’t really care what they have, two are normally disappointed and two are extremely pleased, so make sure you have all the other recommendations ticked off.
8 – Reputation and trading history
You probably play against different cricket teams every week of your season. You will see on the cricket pitch what kit people are using and how good they look, and they will often let you know what the buying and service experience has been like.
Again, don’t be frightened to ask a supplier how many teams they supply and what their stock holdings are to ensure supply to everyone. We know that when we first started out supplying cricket teams via our online store model, it took us until we reached 125 different cricket clubs just to cover the costs of our infrastructure. We put in to do this, and if a supplier has only 20-40 accounts on their website, they are likely to be a reseller of other brands and so longer-term supply could be more of an issue.
Likewise, a local supplier to a team can also be good as it reduces delivery charges, especially if teammates can visit a local cricket shop to collect, and often it will be a long-standing operation that has supplied locally for a long period of time.
In today’s world, the larger online retailers will often have an independent review service attached to their sites such as Feefo or Trust Pilot. This will also give you a good independent gauge as to what you can expect from any future supplier.
Due diligence: Whilst also understanding a supplier’s reputation, which is a subjective view a lot of the time, have a look at the Companies House website, where all companies are registered and you will be able to look at some basic financial and structural details of a company you are considering using. You will be surprised what you find and those who appear big on the outside may actually be quite small on the inside. If they are not profitable it could affect your supply of garments in the future and if they don’t exist on the site, they are probably operating out of their garage.
9 – Discounts
Everyone is always looking for the best possible deal for their personalised cricket team kit as there is a fine balance between expecting everyone to wear it, but also having to ask people to buy it. Most sportswear suppliers will offer you a discount, but it is likely to be linked to quantities ordered. As a manufacturer of cricket team clothing at Serious Cricket, we know it is much easier to make 50 shirts for a club in one go than make the 50 shirts individually on different days of the year.
We also know that cricket is very much a seasonal business. If you are happy to order your cricket kit in January, way ahead of the season starting, that is your best time to be looking for discounts. If a supplier is refusing any discounts two weeks before the season starts, do not be offended. It is probably good that they are busy for the longevity of your supply contract!
10 – Duration
There is plenty to think about when choosing your next cricket team kit supplier. From kit ordering mechanism, minimum order quantities, the longevity of kit to the colour and style of it, it can be a bit of a minefield. To avoid having to regularly go through what can be a drawn-out process, we recommend that you look at making a minimum commitment of three years for your next range of team kit, as it will mean everyone has time to purchase across the whole team and where there are juniors involved it means that there is a certain amount of lifespan to it all.