Merchant Innovation

NBA Debuts 'Endless' eCommerce Aisle

Adam Silver, the current commissioner of the National Basketball Association, has been much faster to embrace advanced analytics than his counterparts at the top of other professional sports leagues. Now, that tech-centric perspective is paying off big time.

Re/code reported that despite opening its first and only official U.S. storefront on Monday (Dec. 21) in New York City, the NBA's new flagship location has been selling jerseys like the modern equivalent of hotcakes, thanks to a heavy infusion of eCommerce. By partnering with Fanatics, a digital commerce speciality firm that works with many of the major sports leagues, the NBA has been able to keep selling $100+ jerseys even when it runs out of stock in store.

How does it make that seemingly contradictory process work? Here's a case study: Kristaps Porzingis is the New York Knicks' most exciting rookie draft pick in years, if not decades, and when the store opened on Monday, blue jerseys with his name sold out in hours. However, the NBA also has a customization center in the store to personalize (or just put Porzingis' name) on blank jerseys, but those sold out, too.

Thanks to Fanatics' eCommerce capabilities, though, the selling never stopped. About half of the store's employees carry tablets around with them, and when customers came in looking for Porzingis jerseys, instead of sending them home with an apology and a rain check offer, the employees have been able to place orders on the spot with the tablets.

All products are shipped to customers' homes free of charge the next day.

“Most of the other retailers that have offered this service … have significantly more scale than just one store,” Sal LaRocca, president of global operations and merchandising for the NBA, told Re/code. "For us, this is a significant difference.”

Between the NBA's collaboration with Fanatics and opening the store right ahead of Christmas, it's looking like, yes, a slam dunk.

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