Sometimes the best leaks are the innocent ones, the ones that just simply get published without malice, but also without a press release. Such is the case with the Buffalo Sabres, who began taking pre-orders for the new Adidas jerseys today, and promoted as such on Twitter: 

While most responses right now seem to be aimed at complaining to the Sabres about the remaining silver accent colour and the lack of a switch to Royal Blue, there’s a note that’s much more important to me here, and that’s the price tags. The team is charging $180 US for a blank sweater and $249 for lettered ones.

Now, you might be looking at that with anger, knowing that the jerseys you find at the store have always been about $120 blank and $200 customized. Typical Adidas, jacking up the prices because of a switch, am I right?

Not exactly. Adidas is only manufacturing the AdiZero authentic jersey this season, which is the successor to the Reebok EDGE jerseys that sold for a higher price tag. These are the ones that the players wear on the ice; the consumer level, which Reebok sold as the “Premier”, is being manufactured by autograph harvester and Sports fast-fashion apparel maker Fanatics, using different material and quality tiers from traditional jerseys, to make them look more appealing on the street.

The EDGE jerseys retailed in the neighbourhood of $249-299 US blank, with $349-359 being the price tag for fully lettered, on-ice spec uniforms. So, in actuality, there’s a pretty steep price cut coming here from Adidas compared to what they were charging under the Reebok brand. If I had to speculate, there are two key reasons why.

Maintaining Luxury Pricing

It’s all about the upsell when it comes to new product, and that applies to any and all industry. Whether it’s getting you to buy an iPhone with a higher storage capacity, leather seats for your car, or even just getting a combo at your favourite fast food joint, companies tend to spread out their products across tiers to give you a suitable choice at any price range.

When Adidas was selling NHL jerseys through the Reebok brand, they had both of the official options putting money into their pockets. This meant that the Authentics could be strictly a niche product, that cost a significant amount more than the Premiers but could be sold to collectors and people who were desperate to have a jersey that could withstand wear and tear on the ice that had their favourite team’s logo on it. Now, they only have one shot to make money off you in the jersey market; no low range, and no kids or women’s cut options either.

This means that their best bet is to make themselves only marginally more expensive than the Fanatics uniform, so you’ll justify the extra $50 or so as the cost of getting a uniform that’s of vastly superior quality and of a more authentic cut. Not just an enthusiasts option, but a premium consumer option as well. It’s a smart ploy to make sure that people are wearing their logo on the back of their uniforms instead of a competitor’s.

Counterfeiting

Of course, there’s an unspoken tier that’s taken over arenas in the past 5-10 years, and that’s the counterfeit industry. Fake hockey jerseys have become increasingly common, thanks to the fact that they mimic the EDGE Uniforms for about $40 a pop, with lettering.

Now, people will often point to this as proof that the league and the manufacturer are ripping people off, which holds up before you consider the fact that companies exist to make money, that licencing exists, and the fact that the jerseys tend to be full of inaccuracies in colour and design and are made of terrible material that holds up to on-ice play even worse than premiers do. I’ve worn them, particularly in my teens, and could never convince myself to get another; I’d rather get a shirsey or just keep saving up my money.

But not all people are like that, as proven by the sales of them. If they can’t have the real thing, they’ll want to look like they have the real thing, especially now that there’s an Adidas logo on the back. In that respect, it makes sense for them to drop the price of their official sweater to get a little bit closer, especially if they feel they have a fabric/design advantage that the knockoff factories will have trouble with.

Adidas has a lot of experience in this field. Their soccer jerseys have been replicated for years, and in the fashion world, their four most popular lifestyle shoes (Ultraboost, NMD, Yeezy, and Iniki) have been knocked off to the point that even the counterfeit manufacturers have their own premium tiered pricing based on accuracy and materials. Adidas products dominate the AliExpress, DHGate, and Taobao’s of the world, and you have to think that countering the incentive is in the back of their minds.

Conclusion

While we’ll have to see if this price is league wide (I can’t imagine the Sabres use discounted price on Day 1, though) and whether the jerseys take a dive in quality to live up to the price (doubtful given that the players have to wear these on the ice), this seems like a good move for both Adidas and consumers. Getting pro jerseys to a somewhat affordable MSRP for the first time in about 15+ years is massive for fans, and it gives Adidas a chance to take some wind out of their legal and illegal competitors.

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