Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images
Q&A with Wizards Director of Retail Jamal Jones
In the first installment of a series of interviews with members of the Wizards’ business staff, Wizards Digital caught up with the team’s Director of Retail, Jamal Jones.
Q: What was your career path? When did you first envision you wanted to work in retail for an NBA team?
Jones: I have been in retail for over 10 years now, starting at Modell’s Sporting Goods and then running retail for U.S. Lacrosse before coming to Monumental [Sports & Entertainment]. As a basketball and NBA fan, I’ve always wanted to work for an NBA team.
Q: What is your annual schedule like? When do you come up with the ideas and put them into action?
Jones: Retail is a year-round operation, with our store open daily (Monday-Saturday) throughout the year. Plus, our Monumental teams are playing almost year-round, so there is almost always a team in season, postseason or preparing for the next season. New product ideas are being considered year-round as well. Since certain products can have long turnaround times, we must come up with new products and submit orders months in advance depending on the item.
Q: What percentage of ideas are actually brought to life and hit the shelves?
Jones: It depends on the vendor and type of item (apparel, headwear, accessories, etc.). Licensed vendors usually provide a catalog of options that we can browse and select the styles that we like. We are more heavily involved with how our logos are used and the graphic art used on the products as opposed to coming up with the product itself. I would say only about 30-40% of items are brought to life. Maybe less.
Q: As we see in the team shop, there are lots of Rui Hachimura products. Can you talk about what it was like when the team first drafted Rui? When did you feel there was a big opportunity to sell more Rui products?
Jones: We realized it would be a big opportunity the day after he was drafted when he arrived in D.C. We saw the media attention he received and how important it was to Japanese fans to have a player drafted into the NBA. When we first stocked his jerseys in the store over the summer, they sold out very quickly. We knew then that it was a big opportunity, but I think it surpassed all of our expectations.
Q: Where do you get ideas for new merchandise? Do you ever get idea from other countries, for instance teams in Japan?
Jones: We work with our retail partner, Fanatics, as well as the team marketing department to come up with new ideas that are in line with the team branding. We also look to social media often to capitalize on trends, viral moments and fan ideas. In some cases, we look at what other teams do as well.
Q: What is considered a success in retail?
Jones: Sales revenue is the main factor, but success in retail can also be determined by the story being told through the merchandise or items that commemorate celebratory moments.
Q: How many people are involved with developing the product?
Jones: Usually around four to six people involved between the vendors, team marketing and operators or buyers, such as Fanatics.
Q: With the world becoming more digital, how difficult is it to balance the sales online and offline?
Jones: The great thing about our industry is that we have up to 18,000 customers (fans) that come to our building over 40 times per season. So, we have no problem reaching out target audience. However, our online store is important because it is always open and we can reach fans who may not be able to come to a game.
Q: If you have anything you would like to share with fans about the team shop/new gears coming out, etc.
Jones: Make sure to follow our store social media @TeamShopatCOA for updates and news on new gear. We like to launch new items and special offers on social media.