Ask the Chairman: Why it took until October for Sheffield Wednesday fans to get their hands on a kit

Sheffield Wednesday's 150th anniversary shirt wasn't available for sale until October
Sheffield Wednesday's 150th anniversary shirt wasn't available for sale until October
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Sheffield Wednesday chairman Dejphon Chansiri has explained the reasoning as to why it took so long for replica shirts to go on sale this season.

The club had come in for criticism for the lengthy delays in making the 150th anniversary shirts available to buy and it wasn't until late October.

In a lengthy response the the latest question as part of the Ask the Chairman series, Chansiri went into great detail to provide reasoning and explain the process in which the club went through when deciding on this season's kit manufacturer.

He revealed that big name sports brands had been approached but it was felt that the deal was not beneficial to Sheffield Wednesday and that was why the decision was made to go 'in-house'.

Chansiri went on to point out the problems they then faced, which at one point involved the club being 'severely let down at the eleventh hour' when one manufacturer attempted to change a previously agreed deal.

"During the 2016/17 season as we approached the final year of our contract with Sondico, we looked into all possibilities moving forward," Chansiri explained.

"Firstly we held discussions with Sondico about extending, but after considering the less favourable feedback from fans regarding this particular brand - and also the number of issues we had internally - we chose to open wider discussions. We met with several market leaders in the kit manufacturing industry and laid out our intentions whilst in the background, we studied the prospect of bringing the whole process in-house.

"The deals we were offered by the top brands did not meet our expectations, nor did they allow us control over designs. Recognised brands pay a fee upfront but can claim that cost back and more through high pricing - in some instances we were looking at a cost price four times higher than manufacturing ourselves.

"The only real benefit would be if they allowed us to sell through their respective distribution network, but this was declined, so there was no financial benefit to the club. It is worth noting as well that even with the bigger brands, they can still suffer from late deliveries and stocking issues.

"Also, when we discovered the kits would be made in the very same factories were we to commission them ourselves, the attraction of moving in-house became all the more compelling.

"Consistent concerns had previously been raised in Steering Group meetings on the quality of kit, so after ongoing discussion with members it was decided we should take on the project. We raised the point in meetings that it was likely we would have potential problems as it was our first experience of going in-house, but the consensus was still positive, so it was agreed that we would go down this route rather than follow the typical shirt deal.

"The reasons were mainly twofold. Firstly, given the EFL’s Profitability and Sustainability regulations, the need to drive revenue and ultimately profit has never been more acute. Secondly, we believed that the club could harness full quality and design control to ensure the best possible product for our supporters.

"This control also means we could be more effective with stocking and re-stocking as we would have the ability to re-order more quickly and be more flexible in exactly what we order. When tied to a mainstream deal, you order once, more than six months in advance, after which re-stocking is almost impossible.

"Whilst the opportunity to drive revenue was important, the flip side was that such a deal took us into unchartered territory, with a significant undertaking of additional resource required. That said, we were confident that with the right deal in place, this would be a major move forward for the club.

"We spent time negotiating a deal following an extensive period of research and consultation and reached agreement with a favoured supplier that offered the best production value, quality control and potential revenue.

"Further time was taken discussing the finer detail of design and manufacture before we were severely let down at the eleventh hour, when the supplier demanded double the fees already agreed.

"We then had a big decision to make – bow to these demands given the time factor rapidly against us and continue with the same supplier, or make a stand and go back to market to source a manufacturer that could help achieve our objectives.

"We decided on the second option and after further consultation - and time - agreed a deal and signed with a new supplier. Work was immediately underway but effectively, we had to start again, which once more ate into the timeframe. The process of producing kit is a lengthy one, right from the drawings and designs all the way through to manufacture and sale. Every single item is bespoke and procedures must be adhered to in terms of quality, lead time, all costs and delivery.

"With the start of the season fast approaching, the priority was ensuring that the first team squad was provided with sufficient home and away strips on time. This meant the retail side was compromised, despite every effort made to spread production to additional factories and speed up the process.

"All the above uncertainty made it difficult to communicate the situation with any confidence to our supporters - deadlines were missed and we were left in the position of having insufficient kit for retail sale until October. We issued a statement ahead of Owls in the Park before receiving limited shirt numbers in September but not enough to warrant a launch whereby all supporters would be satisfied.

"Finally, we were in a position to launch last month and I am pleased to say that sales were excellent. It is a shame if some fans choose not to buy a shirt because of the problems we experienced but I understand their frustrations and believe me they are shared by everyone at our club. Like everything, we do our best and all we can ask is for the best possible support.

"I can assure everyone that the process for next season’s kit has already begun and there will be no repeat of the events of this summer. This will result for sure in all sale dates being achieved in a timely and professional manner befitting of Sheffield Wednesday."