Starter Clothing Line
|Headquarters||New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.|
|North America, Europe, Asia |
|$282.7 million |
Number of employees
|Parent||Iconix Brand Group|
Starter is an American manufacturer of fleeces, footwear, compressions, and other accessories.
Rise and expansion
In 1976, the company entered into non-exclusive licensing agreement with a number of professional sports league, paying royalties of 8-10% for the right to manufacture and market copies of professional athletic apparel. Its first retail product was a line of jackets emblazoned with the insignias of Major League Baseball teams. Soon the company expanded its licensed apparel line to include into headgear, activewear and accessories.
In 1979, the company became one of the first licensees to supply clothing worn on the field by professional teams through an agreement to manufacture satin jackets for players on Major League baseball teams. Starter incorporated this design into streetwear, and was, in the words of Business Week reporter Tim Smart, the "first to make team jackets out of satin, instead of the usual cheap nylon".
Starter had a tremendous growth in the 1980s. In 1980, it began partnerships with major leagues in basketball, football, baseball, and hockey as well as in 150 colleges and universities. It was the first apparel brand to co-brand with professional, collegiate and Olympic sports. By 1983, the company had entered licensing agreements with the NBA, the NFL, the NHL and the Canadian Football League (CFL). As coverage of national sports leagues on cable television expanded, Starter's bright, flashy team jackets became status symbols among kids. But the company's growth during this decade can also be attributed to an aggressive marketing strategy. Not only had the company made licensed sports apparel a fashion status symbol, it also created brand loyalty by making its "S and Star" logo a prominent part of the apparel's design. Starter innovatively placed its embroidered logo on jacket sleeves and on the back of baseball caps. Often, when people wore their baseball hats backwards, a person saw the Starter logo before they even saw the insignia of the team it represented.
In 1986, the company became the first to create NBA locker room t-shirts, first worn on television by the Boston Celtics, and later worn by millions of kids across the United States and Canada. In a similar way, Starter won a contract to create the parkas that coaches wore on NFL sidelines. For the retail market, Starter designed the "breakaway jacket", a pullover jacket that closely resembled the coach's parka and soon became an important wardrobe element of fashion conscious teenagers. The rage for Starter clothing was so strong that some children owned as many as 20 baseball caps; others would pay over $150 for a Starter jacket.[original research?] Sales in 1989 were $58.9 million. By 1990, they had more than doubled to $124.6 million.
In the early 1990s, Starter began to expand its distribution networks to reach over 25 countries in North America, Europe, and the Pacific Rim. The baseball jackets gave way to a hooded design with a side zipper, and eventually to a padded half-zip pullover. Starter apparel also expanded beyond sports clubs into styles such as plaid. A famous ad campaign featured Hip-Hop stars such as DJ Jazzy Jeff. Within two years, Starter's net sales nearly doubled to $356 million. The company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in April 1993, earning an estimated $98 million. Proceeds from the initial public offering were used to expand sales to Europe and the Pacific Rim and also to launch "Brand Starter", the company's own sportswear line minus team logos. Capitalizing on the high recognizability of its name, Starter went head-to-head against brands such as Champion and Russell.
Starter's competition in the licensed sports apparel business intensified in 1994 when Logo 7 Inc., the 2nd. licensed sports apparel manufacturer, won a much coveted NFL Pro Line license and beefed up its advertising budget in an attempt to knock Starter from its number one position. Overall, the boom in the licensed sports apparel market began to slacken in early 1994, slowing from an average of 38 percent annual growth to 15 percent annual growth. Starter moved into new markets with its licensed sports apparel, focusing on sales to young children and youth, and signed a new contract to manufacture the center ice jersey for the National Hockey League. The company purchased a retail chain, First Pick Stores, for $5 million of new stock in March 1994, and also established a Hong Kong office to better coordinate relations with manufactures. Beckerman stepped down as president, although he retained the posts of chairman and chief executive. John Tucker, former president and chief executive of a sporting goods and sportswear concern, assumed the position of president.
Although Starter began 1994 with a 23 percent increase over the first quarter 1993, it suffered a loss of $2.2 million in the second quarter. Second quarter 1994 sales were flat: $57.8 million, slightly lower than second quarter sales from 1992. Starter had predicted the loss, which it blamed on late deliveries from vendors, shipping delays to retailers, additional advertising and personnel costs, as well as start-up and contractor costs for a new Memphis distribution facility.
1997 saw Starter become one of three suppliers (along with Champion and then-rival Nike) of uniforms for the NBA, most notably the New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets. When the original company declined financially, their accounts went to Puma. In 2000, when 29 other MLB teams switched to the MLB Authentic Collection, the New York Yankees were the last team to wear Starter jackets.
The Starter name was purchased in 1999 by Official Starter Properties and Official Starter. These holding companies were in turn purchased by Nike in 2004 for about $43 million.
Starter has partnered with Walmart and is sold exclusively there. On November 15, 2007, Iconix Brand Group bought the Starter brand from Nike, Inc. In 2009, Starter signed an exclusive endorsement agreement with quarterback Tony Romo, who will be the featured brand ambassador for Starter's national advertising. Starter now manufactures clothing like compression shirts, similar to Under Armour brand compression shirts, compression shorts, basketball shorts, snapbacks for other companies/brands (e.g. Treated Crew, A Bathing Ape, Staple, Element and LMC just to name a few), basketball sneakers, tennis shoes, sport team logo-less jackets, slide sandals, and more. Starter also has a Tony Romo line of track pants, jerseys, jackets, and more. On March 12, 2013 it was announced that Starter would be relaunching the Starter satin and pull-over jackets in the latter half of Summer in Foot Locker stores and Sports Authority stores within the United States and Canada. The new line of satin and pull-over jackets are sold in stores and online. Starter with the assistance of G-III Apparel Group which produces the jackets had helped Starter acquire licensing to the NFL, NBA, MLB and NCAA. Starter is working on acquiring the NHL license and it's expected those will be seen around Fall of 2014.
During the 1990s Starter manufactured and supplied official uniforms for the main sports leagues of the United States. Some of those teams and athletes were:
- Troy Polumalu (2008–12)
- NHL - all teams
Merchandising licensed manufacturer
During the 1990s Starter was a prominent manufacturer in the market of licensed uniforms of the main sports leagues in USA and Canada. The following is a list of the products made and commercialized by the company in those years: