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How to Become a Licensed Sports Apparel Distributor

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Many retailers specialize in selling licensed sports apparel from various sports teams and leagues, and it can be quite profitable. Millions of sports fans around the world tend to show their team spirit by sporting tees, jerseys and other types of apparel with their favorite team's logos. To get inventory, such retailers buy from wholesale distributors of sports apparel. Starting a wholesale business distributing licensed sports apparel may be the ideal venture if you're looking to become an entrepreneur and are a sports fan.

Target a niche for your sports apparel distributing business to differentiate yourself from competitors. Doing so will also allow you to specialize in a specific type of merchandise. For instance, you can sell National Football League (NFL) jerseys, National Basketball Association (NBA) apparel for toddlers or Major League Baseball (MLB) hats.

Obtain the licenses and permits needed in your state to become a retailer--your local small business development center can tell you what is required. This may include a sales tax and use permit, resale permit, fictitious name certificate (DBA) or employer identification number (EIN).

Lease a warehouse to store your inventory. Since you will be retailing apparel, a space without direct sunlight and that is free of dust and odors is optimal. Rent only the amount of space you need to save money--what you need will depend on the amount of merchandise you plan to keep in stock.

Open accounts with wholesalers of licensed sports apparel, such as The Marketing Connection, Inc. or Big Apple Card Company. Ensure you are getting a distributor's discount, which usually ranges from 60 to 80 percent off, rather than a retailer's discount, which ranges from 30 to 50 percent off. Since you will be selling to retailers, you must be able to mark up your prices to make a profit, yet keep them low enough to attract clients.

Ensure the merchandise you buy is officially licensed by looking at the tags inside and hanging from the clothing. Each sports league has a hologram logo which signifies that each piece of clothing is authentic. Alternatively, contact the leagues you plan to carry merchandise for and ask for a list of their authorized product manufacturers.

Create wholesale policies for the retailers that order from you. For example, you can require that they provide business documentation such as a resale permit, that all orders must meet a $250 minimum, or that customers in your city can pick up their orders free of charge.

Develop incentives for retailers to do business with you. Offer discounted shipping or delivery services, give a discount for very large orders or distribute a customer-only newsletter detailing sports apparel trends and business tips.

Join an association for retailers and apparel distributors, such as the National Retail Federation, to network, connect with suppliers and gain new customers.

Market your business to retailers of sports apparel, such as athletic shoe stores, fan shops and sporting goods stores. Set up a promotional blog or website, emphasize the benefits of doing business with you, provide excellent customer service and make yourself accessible to the retailers you work with.


Melinda Gaines has been a freelance writer since 2006, with work appearing online for YellowPages and other websites. Her areas of expertise include business, beauty, fashion and sports. Gaines attended the University of Houston where she earned a Bachelor of Science in sport administration.