A dying business or an untaken opportunity?
Today’s article another guest piece, this time written by @elhoussain_tm.
When it comes to choosing your next football boots in most European, American as well as some Asian countries, you find yourself with a wide variety of offerings from the big brands like adidas, Nike, Puma, Mizuno, and others like Lotto, Kappa or Hummel.
However, if you are in a developing country chances are that you have often a limited choice from legit retailers and with prices that are often higher than your paycheck every month. This is exactly the case in Morocco. Having worked for different retailers and sport equipment providers in my country, I will explain the situation here, using everything I have learned during my years in the business.
Before diving into the main topic, let me explain the situation here. There are only a handful of legit retailers and sport equipment providers that operate in the country. Adidas is the only big brand who has a “base of operations” in the national territory and has total control on the merchandise offered in their stores and the retailers who get to put adidas products on their shelves (Ed Note – This is the case in most countries). I had the chance to be a retail manager for the good part of the last two years, and I took that opportunity to gather some information about the football market in general.
Through a series of interviews and everyday discussions with some of my colleagues and company partners, many people in sports retail industry believe that football is a non-lucrative branch of the business. They are partly right because sales are poor even when they are on sale. But that point is not interesting on its own until you start to look at all the facets of this issue.
Football is the national sport in Morocco, mobilizing millions of people every weekend to play the beautiful sport. And the country isn’t short on big name players in the biggest leagues, like Hakim Ziyech and Sevilla’s keeper Yassine Bono. Before 2017, there were football product ads in all the main streets of the big cities, like Casablanca and Marrakech.
Even to this day, people are always aware of every single match in La Liga or the national championship, the Botola Pro, and the passion for football is shown every Casablanca derby when the Wydad Athletic Club and the Raja CA face each other, with the crowd showing off impressive artwork, as well as street art from the supporter’s clubs that covers every empty wall in the city.
Then how football is not a lucrative market in Morocco according to legit retailers, you might ask. The answer is a bit complicated, due to the incredible number of factors that intertwine into this. We will dive into the biggest details.
First, the dominance of the fake market. Believe me when I say that more than 60% of the sports products available are fakes, and even some legit retailers sell them. Only big-name companies are actually selling the real deal. The biggest reason is the price. Sport goods in general do not come cheap in Morocco. For example, a high end adidas COPA 20+ costs here 3330 MAD at an official adidas store, that’s exactly $350USD at the actual rate. It’s outrageous, considering that a COPA 20+ costs generally $250 – 260. According to my calculations, the added amount is between 30 – 50 % of the product retail price. They have to be on sale to actually get them for their launch retail price anywhere else outside of North Africa.
When I reached out to adidas in Morocco (I was a trainee for one month at their offices in 2017), the only explanation they gave me is that they are affected by high taxation. Taxes are low for travelers and Europeans often move here to escape Europe’s higher taxes. Much like Brazil though, import taxes make sure that prices for some products are prohibitively high. To give you a slight idea of how the expensive products look to a Moroccan citizen, the minimum wage that a Moroccan can get is 2300 MAD monthly, a little over $230. If they wanted to get a pair of high-end boots, they wouldn’t have enough money for a single pair. Even the takedowns aren’t that cheap, costing between 800 and 2100 MAD, roughly between $79 – 200. Yep you read that right, a 1st or 2nd takedown could cost you up to $200.
Puma’s products that are sold here tend to be at a reasonable price, but good luck finding a store in a city outside Casablanca. That takes us to the second point, availability. For example, there are less than 18 adidas stores in Morocco, 12 of them are located in Casablanca. And it’s not only about the number of sports stores, but also what sports products are available. Providers won’t give you anything that they aren’t willing to sell by themselves. They decide which products you have to buy as a retailer. If you wanted to sell a Predator 20 or Los Angeles Galaxy shirt, you will not be granted your request, and if you push too much, in some cases you can get banned from their buyers list.
Retailers do not have the liberty to sell what they see as fit for their customers. Providers here do not even have the knowledge of the market. I am not blaming them only, because every single employee in this line of are also responsible for this. That brings us to size availability. If you are an 11 US or more, good luck finding your size in a legit store. And if you find it, be sure to have two months’ worth of salary to pay it. I did my best when working as retail manager to bring in almost every size available on my company’s orders, and my strategy paid off. If all providers and retailers followed our example, there will be less chances that people will try their luck in the fake market.
Next on the list, collection availability. When a product comes out, it takes generally from 2 weeks to 3 months until it is available for the customer to buy. I remember it took laceless boots 2 years to be finally available in one adidas store in Morocco. Providers say it is because of customs issues.
Second, considering all the factors cited previously, football boots in Morocco are like “luxury items”, that you can compare to a designer shoe from Gucci and the like. And let me tell you, sometimes, you’re better off buying the Gucci shoe rather than a football boot. When the Nemeziz 17+ was available, it had a 5900 MAD retail price at an adidas store. That’s nearly $600! If you go playing football in Morocco, chances are 70% of people play with running shoes or barefoot, 28% playing with fakes or 3rd takedowns, and 2% only playing with 1st takedown or elite models. The national championship displays that well, with 90% of the players playing with the same exact boot for more than 2 years and even playing with takedowns and fakes.
When I go to play football, I am playing with 5000 MAD worth of football equipment, including my Predator 18+ or X 18+, compared to any of my teammates, who generally wears like 300 or 400 MAD worth of equipment, boots included. This is simply because they buy fake items for cheap, while I grind all year waiting for the Black Friday sales to splash my cash on what my budget can afford.
If football boots in Morocco are only affordable for the wealthy, why don’t those with the resources spend their money on it? Simple again. The people that can afford the boots don’t often like football as they stupidly believe its a sport for the “poor”. We fall in the dilemma “Football is a poor person’s sport and the boots costs nearly 2 months of their salary”. That’s when we get to the greatest problem of them all. “Why not just get boots online and have them shipped to Morocco?”, to those people I say good luck getting them shipped to Morocco.
Third, the worldwide shipping. Logistics in Morocco are absolutely terrible. Forget about the bad infrastructure and the shipping time. Not only are the prices high (you might pay double the price of the boot), but there are no guarantees you will see your boots get to your doorstep. And there is no way to refund. As a boot nerd that always budgets (generally $180) to spend on a nice, discounted pair of Rebulas or Predators, I find myself in a very difficult situation. If I find my boots in the market, they’re way too expensive even during a sales period, and I can’t order online without needing to connect through a VPN and I would be throwing my money out of the window because my order will never reach my doorstep.
In North Africa in general, these problems are nearly the same, according to some friends of mine living there. But having been in the business for years now, I know that the situation is critical. It’s disappointing to have to enjoy the new football launches behind the scenes, and not being able to spend hard-earned money on a product you can actually enjoy. The situation doesn’t seem to be getting any better from what I can see and the from the people I have talked to. While I am writing this, football equipment inventory is not selling, and it seems with this covid-19 situation, a resupply isn’t on the roadmap.
Morocco, as I have explained, is a terrible place for football boot enthusiasts. Providers and retailers are responsible for this situation, and as well as the B2B problems we discussed here, the customer service is terrible. Salespersons aren’t passionate enough, I know this because I have trained a lot of them in my career, and of course, because I am myself a customer.
I hope that this helped raise your awareness about the football market situation in Morocco because the potential is here. If big brands focus on finding solutions to these problems, football could become the best-selling part of the sports retail industry here.
Thanks again to @elhoussain_tm for writing this piece and make sure ya’ll check out his Instagram. I certainly learned something and I hope you did too. Make sure to share this with your friends and be sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!