Let’s get one thing straight right away, all you wonderful kit collectors in the UK and Europe have an absolute plethora of kit retailer options. Be it Bricks and Mortar (B&M) or Online, with your 24 hour shipping and free returns, exclusive drops and the range, oh and the range available make my eyes water.
The spoilt for choice options include an ever increasing choice of retro and classic ranges, with Classic Football Shirts being the pioneers of this business; So much so that they’ve expanded their warehouse, hosted pop-ups in international locations and of course house B&M locations in London and Manchester.
The online world is fantastic, and everyone has caught on to the potential of the football shirt market. I, too also sell my old shirts, albeit I have very different reasons for doing so to others yearning to make a profit by flipping what they find.
Going back to what can be experienced in Australia; my very first shirt, an Ajax Amsterdam away youth full kit in 1995. After playing Rugby League for most of my young life, I had my parents baffled by begging my parents for Ajax Kit. Back then, they had no idea where to start, as it was a club rarely spoken of, let alone one that could be sourced easily. My mother managed to find a little known football shop called Soccerworld and the owner there called the club and arranged it somehow. I do not know how much it cost back then, but the value to me was priceless.
Step forward 25 years to the current day, and while things have improved (a bit), I still find myself constantly looking overseas to find what I currently admire. Yes, Soccerworld still exists but they have been of overshadowed by big sports retailers such a Rebel Sport, JD Sport and the big brand (Adidas, Nike, Puma etc.) retailers. But the thing that rings common, and is my biggest bugbear is the range of shirts available. Now, don’t get me wrong I am not chasing a shirt from a small obscure town from the remote part of Romania, I’m talking bigger European clubs that may not be always be in the mainstream. Ajax is one example, I buy their shirt every year and because of the very nature of where the club is based and where it’s seen in the Australian market (non-existent) it just isn’t available here. What is available is a range of clubs that you would expect at most sports retailers, the big EPL clubs, Barcelona, Real Madrid, possibly PSG and some national shirts.
On the counter argument, I do have to accept that football (or soccer for the majority of the country) is hardly the biggest sport in Australia. The sport, however has the biggest junior participation rate in the country. Depending on who you speak to, the sport in this country just cannot get ahead with the general public against the big 3 of Australian Rules Football, Rugby League and Cricket. The local professional league (A-League) is currently in state of flux with its own identity issues and the association, who has barely spent a dime on marketing the league, does not attract the interest it deserves.
But that aside, shirt sales in comparison to other sports are probably on the lower end of the spectrum, and no business wants to hold stock on the odd chance that one person may buy.
Who is changing the game in Australia? Well doing their utmost best to keep a variety options and exclusive drops are Ultra FC who do very well in fan version shirts (and to be honest only 2.5% of people look to actively buy authentics) but due to our location and brand distribution network they also are very restricted in some of the shirts that they can get. Shipping costs are added on top (something else I always moan on about), but are usually only an overnight transit, which in these trying times of Covid-19, is amazingly fast. Nevertheless, Ultra FC is a shining light in an otherwise very dull retail market in Australia.
Then you have the brands themselves, Adidas and Puma have barely anything outside of the top tier or elite clubs and nations, and whilst that is slowly improving, the range compared to their UK/EU counterparts is quite low and poor. The plus side is all stock is located locally and can usually get to you within a week.
Nike, on the other hand have a very different approach; the brand has put up mostly everything in its range for sale and distribute it worldwide via their affiliate Eshopway’s warehouse in the Netherlands. Whilst the range is top notch with authentic and training lines added, due to the warehouse locality it can take upwards of 3 weeks to reach you, also a $200AUD spend is required for free shipping.
Going away from that, you have the landmine that is EBay and DePop, with unknown home based retailers and a 2nd hand or resale market that is so hot and cold with prices and legitimacy issues that we all know of but few of us have the knowledge to distinguish good with the bad.
Then of course we come full circle and visit the online mecca that are the online football super retailers in Kitbag/Fanatics, Pro Direct and lessor extent Subside Sports. All 3 have their pros and cons ordering from Australia.
Pro: Yes, we can take advantage of those wonderful sale prices, Kitbag/Fanatics also sell in Australian Dollars, which eliminates the ugly conversion exercise.
Pro: Subside sports, not a common retailer to Australia (they do have an Australian website but I am unsure they are actually linked) will sell at EX-VAT prices which is a massive advantage (my post may be ending this little privilege as GST (which is charged at a lower rate than VAT) is charged instead to Australian customers.)
Pro: Oh the range… All brands, most clubs, all the football kit candy in the world can be sought after in these mega football retailers. However, it comes at a price:
Con: And of course, that price is shipping. Anyone who buys regularly from international stores, understand that shipping is an inherent part of the experience. Add anywhere from $15-60 depending on your site of choice and platform of delivery and it can really add to the costs of your purchase. For example, Olympique De Marseille wanted to charge me 60 Euros to DHL express ship a Kit to Australia, which was my only option.
Con: In addition to the above, buying from said retailers the shipping can take often 3 weeks plus if take the most economical route. Which for some sites, this is an untracked parcel airmail. You are essentially hoping that the item gets here without knowing where it actually is during transit.
Con: Returns, having to ship an item back to the other side of the world will not be borne by the retailer. Expect to add up to $30 to have the item shipped back for size exchange or refund and again you’re waiting 2-3 weeks before confirmation of receipt and another for the newly exchanged item to be shipped back..
Overall, shopping overseas for the shirts that you actually want can be painless, although everything needs be perfect for this to happen. You have to know your sizes in all brands, expect to be patient and hope to hell that your purchase does not go missing in transit. Returns are a pain and honestly, the customer service on some of these sites is so terribly shocking, I’ve even barred myself from using a couple again no matter how good the deal.
The local options in Australia are always there and reliable, and I do use them on occasion, but for me the lack of variety and the sale prices overseas always drive me back to using these sites. The world is much smaller and engaging in international shirt retail therapy is one that often brings joy.
Based on my own retail experiences. They often differ from site to site and country to country, your experiences may vary.