The shirts, hoodies and hats appeal to active members as well as nostalgic veterans.
Prep Sportswear, an online apparel retailer, has inked two deals designed to give members of the military, retired personnel and other consumers more access to customized shirts, hoodies and hats that reflect specific military units and bases.
The first deal enables any consumer to buy customized apparel from Military.com, a site that offers a variety of content related to military life, along with the chance to buy related products and services. The second deal enables shopping via www.ExchangeOnlineMall.com, the web site of The Army & Air Force Exchange Service, a U.S. Defense Department agency that serves all branches of the armed forces but which requires customers to be active-duty or retired military personnel. The service is No. 75 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.
“We’ve worked closely with the military to develop exclusive designs for this market,” says Dave Santiago, executive vice president, business development and sales, at Sportswear Inc., the parent of Prep Sportswear. Sportswear says it has at least 1,200 products that shoppers can personalize with the names of their bases, units and squadrons.
The company already sells personalized apparel to fans of particular high schools and colleges. The launch of the military line required Prep Sportswear to add at least one more customization field for online consumers because of the higher level of personalization for military shoppers, says Dena Becker, Prep’s director of marketing. While schools have multiple clubs and sports activities, they generally have a unified mascot or logo. Military units, on the other hand, often have their own mascots, logos or slogans.
While Prep Sportswear expects much of the business to come from active-duty members, a significant portion of sales are made up of what Becker calls nostalgia purchases—for instance, Vietnam War veterans ordering apparel with the names of their old units.
Prep Sportswear is hoping to promote the launch via sponsorships, such as providing jerseys and T-shirts to the Bellows Air Station basketball tournament, held in Hawaii every year. “It’s just a fun way for us to give back while helping to spread the word about our new offering,” she says.