Umbro sweats on England

As corporate strategies go, relying on the success of England’s football team doesn’t really sound like a winner.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

But as the much-maligned squad prepares to take on Israel and Russia in the coming week, in a double-header that could decide its qualification for next year’s European Championships, it is not only head coach Steve McClaren who is sweating on his side’s prospects.

England’s kit supplier Umbro said today that its profits dropped 44.5% in the first half of this year, largely due to poor sales of the national team shirt. This has left retailers with a big surplus of unsold stock, and could result in full year profits for 2008 coming in about £8m below its original £30m target.

Given that replica kit sales account for about 90 percent of Umbro’s UK sales, any drop in demand is very bad news. The retailer still supplies kits to six Premiership clubs, but has lost two of its biggest clients, Manchester United and Chelsea, to Nike and Adidas respectively in recent years – leaving it ever more reliant on the England team.

Chief executive Steve Makin wheeled out the standard retail excuse of bad weather this morning, but in a non-World Cup year, he admitted that the team’s dismal recent performances were partly to blame. As the team has been humbled by Croatia and Germany, Umbro’s kits have become about as popular with the England fans as Frank Lampard.

And this might not be the end of the story. If England loses its next two games and fails to qualify for next summer’s tournament – as many are predicting – Umbro’s prospects for next year are likely to get a whole lot worse.

With talisman Wayne Rooney injured and a host of other players unavailable, McClaren badly needs motivated big-game players, who are desperate to get England to the finals.

Perhaps he should put Steve Makin up front with Michael Owen?

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