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SquadLocker Disrupts Team Apparel Business

SquadLocker wants to change the way youth sports coaches and parents order team apparel. The traditional method of working with a sales person, flipping through catalogs, collecting paper order forms and distributing gear can be frustrating and prone to errors, says Todd Grant, president of the two-year-old technology and decorating firm based in Warwick, RI.  “Coaches and parents volunteer their time to mentor and inspire young athletes,” he adds. “The cumbersome challenge of managing apparel is not really part of what they volunteered to do. … We take away all that heavy lifting.”

Grant and company streamlined the order process into three steps: choosing apparel, uploading a logo and promoting an “instant online store,” so parents can purchase gear directly from SquadLocker. “We’re trying to be disruptive and transform buying behavior,” he says of the SquadLocker online engine. All customer support, logistics and fulfillment is handled by SquadLocker staff. The company even offers free logo design for teams that don’t have one readily available, Grant notes.

Behind the scenes at the firm’s 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, SquadLocker has perfected the long elusive art of mass customization at scale, adding player names and numbers, one at a time, quickly and efficiently. SquadLocker primarily offers embroidery and heat printing, “all the types of decoration that allow us to produce a single unit,” Grant says. Since its launch in July 2015, SquadLocker has experienced 500% year-over-year growth, and currently boasts around 100 employees, according to Grant. “This sounds lofty, but we do intend to build a billion-dollar enterprise here,” he adds.

One element helping that rapid growth has been SquadLocker’s partnership with online youth league management platforms. For instance, in March, SquadLocker inked a long-term partnership with SportsEngine Inc., giving SportsEngine users an easier way to order team gear and spirit wear. SportsEngine, an NBC Sports Group company, is used by more than 600,000 sports organizations, from youth and amateur to professional. “By leveraging the information already collected by organizations and their administrators in SportsEngine, we’re providing an effective way to alleviate many of the headaches I’ve personally experienced when trying to create an apparel store for my own organization,” says Lee Zukor, vice president of product and user experience at SportsEngine.

Grant, for his part, is pleased to be part of a company that’s helping young athletes succeed. “I’ve seen my son experience life lessons as a participant in youth sports that he wouldn’t have learned elsewhere,” he says. “[SquadLocker] can’t really coach kids, but we can help the coaches have more time to coach the kids.”