West Ham’s shirt strategy is pricing many of the common fans out

Surely the club has a duty of care to consider the implications of their pricing strategy for shirts?

Bubbles at the West Ham United v Chelsea EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on February 11, 2023.

Now, as you will have seen, West Ham recently released their new shirts ahead of the 23/24 season. Many people have commented on the design, which on the home kit includes the silhouette of some bubbles, or the stain a glass makes if you’ve not used a coaster, and an almost invisible badge on the away shirt. 

And if there was any one thing more eye opening than letting the work experience lad design our kits – it’s the price. Yep, that’s right. In the middle of a cost of living crisis, the club have decided to increase the price of the replica shirts up from £64.99 to an even more eye watering £74.99 for an adult. 

The club were quick to justify this increase by citing an increase in costs, and yes – there is a general uplift in price of materials, shipping and various other elements. So surely, this cost is being seen across the board right? Well, sure, West Ham aren’t the most expensive shirt on the Premier League market at the moment. 

Arsenal, Manchester United, Spurs and Fulham all charge supporters £80 for the honour of wearing their colours. Even Brentford, who last season had the cheapest shirt available at £49 have increased theirs to £60. 

So costs outside of West Ham’s control have determined this fee – it’s the manufacturer dictating this surely? Well, Umbro currently supply the kits to 13 of the 92 Football League teams, ranging from the current Europa Conference League Champions down to Forest Green Rovers. 

Which down in Gloucestershire must have been met with dismay, such a small club’s fans having to pay that much. After all with a shirt being a shirt, all associated costs are the same, so the consumer cost will be the same. Wrong.

A Forest Green Rovers shirt will cost their fans £45. Cambridge United ask for £47 and AFC Wimbledon’s absolute belter of a shirt is £53. But hey, they’re lower league teams – there must be something special about the Premier League shirts, hence why they’re all so expensive. Well, wrong. On both counts.

Premier League Burnley have their Umbro offering for the upcoming season on sale for £55. All of these are men’s kits – we’ve not even started on the fact that a West Ham kids mini kit is £65, compared to FGR at £28. Why then, can those clubs all sell their shirts – made in the same factory, by the same people – so much cheaper than West Ham currently are? 

I mean sure, part of the breakdown of the cost of the shirt is for the official licensing fee, which for a Premier League club may well be more than a League Two club. So why are West Ham’s claret and blue Umbro shirts so much more expensive than Burnley’s claret and blue Umbro shirt?  

Umbro and the club most likely set the price together based on good old fashioned supply and demand. I am guessing that Burnley demand is less and local income is less. West Ham, on the other hand, want to set a price similar to Chelsea, also £70, and closer to Spurs and Arsenal who both charge £80. 

In short, they are profiteering. Increasing the cost to increase the money they make, taking advantage of the fact the club is located in a more affluent part of the country, even if you, the fan aren’t. The one, clear argument will always be ‘no-one is forcing you to buy the shirts’. Which is true, they aren’t. 

Although, anyone with kids who are desperate to show their club’s colours at the playground can testify, they are. But taking that away from it, they’re right – the options are to buy the shirt from the club and let them get away with their profiteering or not buying the shirt and hitting them where it hurts in the pocket. Unfortunately though, one other option does remain and will often be utilised – the fake shirt market.

A number of websites and apps are now readily available, offering a cut price option for those who want to show off their club’s shirt, but can’t afford the official replica. A quick browse at one of the more popular Chinese wholesalers show them selling fake shirts for as little as £15, plus a £3 delivery charge making them a very appealing option. 

As someone who is a known shirt collector, whose personal collection has every home, away and third shirt we’ve had dating back to the 1950’s, I would advise against them on account of the quality of the material. The colour palette is often slightly off, you can tell differences in the stitching as well as the shape of the badge and other various elements. But especially when it comes to kids shirts – who’s going to notice?

With West Ham choosing a pricing strategy that potentially prices many of the common fan out of purchasing a genuine shirt, this route could become more exercised. Whilst you cannot lay the blame of this purely at the door of the decision makers at the club, surely they have a duty of care on a socio-economical basis to consider the downstream implications of their pricing strategy?

Especially if the current trend of changing shirts year on year continues.

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