Challenging giants in team apparel

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

The Internet has found local team-sports apparel. Long the domain of neighborhood sporting-goods shops or mom-and-pop screen printers, sales of uniforms and clothing for small teams – from Little League to corporate softball and high school wrestling – are migrating online like so many other consumer products. More

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Challenging giants in team apparel

PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
LEAGUE OF ITS OWN: Custom sports-apparel company Squad Locker caters to the local-team market. Above, CEO Gary Goldberg, right, speaks with embroidery operator Freddy Medrano.

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 3/4/13

The Internet has found local team-sports apparel. Long the domain of neighborhood sporting-goods shops or mom-and-pop screen printers, sales of uniforms and clothing for small teams – from Little League to corporate softball and high school wrestling – are migrating online like so many other consumer products.

And one Rhode Island business isn’t leaving the market to Amazon or any other national Internet retail giant.

Squad Locker, a two-year-old company founded by Gary Goldberg, CEO of East Providence allergen-protective bedding company CleanBrands LLC, is making a major push in the market and recently expanded into a new Warwick facility.

Goldberg grew up around textiles. His family founded Duro Industries in Fall River and he owns a sports-clothing brand called Turfer Athletic.

Goldberg decided to move into the local team-uniform business with Squad Locker when his three children began playing youth sports and he found buying gear for them cumbersome.

“I started to notice a disconnect between the process of buying your kids team gear, plus what the schools go through to acquire their team apparel, and the modern retail model online or in the large-format retail space we have come to expect,” Goldberg said. “Order processing, timeliness – that modern consumer experience – there is a huge vacuum in the youth and adult team space.”

While giant retailers, either online or brick-and-mortar, dominate both sporting goods and sports apparel, they have little interest in making or selling small batches of products connected with local teams.

With knowledge of textile manufacturing, supply-chain management and online retailing from CleanBrands and Turfer Athletic, Goldberg decided he was in an advantageous position to modernize the local team market.

At squadlocker.com, local teams can set up a “team store,” where players buy officially issued gear (uniforms, warm-ups) and fans, parents and anyone else can buy a selection of team-logoed clothing such as T-shirts and sweatshirts.

In the traditional method of ordering custom apparel, a season’s worth of team uniforms and clothing would all be printed in one batch, forcing all orders to come in at the same time.

That system usually leaves a coach or “team mom” to collect checks, round up stragglers and otherwise manage the order to avoid too many or too few articles being printed.

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