COLIN CAMPBELL makes no bones about the fact his background is with the round rather than the oval ball, but after almost 40-years in the sports kit supply business he believes that his partnership with Macron is ideally suited to the rugby club and school market.
“I played three seasons for Hibs in the late 1970s, then Dundee United for a season, before working my way down through Airdrie and Meadowbank Thistle,” he explains. “I started the business when I was 25, after leaving Dundee United and going part-time with Airdrie. Funnily enough, they were in the Premier League at the time, playing Celtic and Rangers, despite the fact we were only training three evenings a week.
“A friend of mine and his wife owned a sports shop in Ratcliffe Terrace, but decided it wasn’t for them, so for my sins I bought the stock off this guy and took on the business myself. That was in 1982 so I have been doing it for 38 years now.”
He has been at his current base on Inverleith Row in Edinburgh – just down the road from Heriots’ Goldenacre ground – since the late 1980s and made the switch from a traditional sports outlet to specialist teamwear suppliers back in the late 1990s.
During the last two and a half decades, he has built an impressive portfolio of football clients from across the capital and beyond, including: Spartans, Currie Star, Currie FC, Cramond, Kirkliston South Queensferry Youths and Hutchison Vale in Edinburgh; Musselburgh Windsor and Tranent in East Lothian; Penicuik in Mid Lothian; Broxburn in West Lothian; Blue Brazil in Fife; and even as far north as BSYFC up in Blairgowrie.
Colin also supplies Edusport Academy, which is a residential elite performance programme based in Glasgow for French students (covering football, rugby and basketball); has partnered up with Fife, Midlothian and East Lothian Councils; and works with Street Soccer (a social enterprise which uses football inspired training and personal development as a medium to empower people across the UK who are affected by social exclusion).
The only way is Macron
In recent years, the business has become more closely aligned with Macron and he decided last year to make the jump to becoming an exclusive supplier for the Italian firm.
“The thing that we really like about Macron is that their supply lines are so reliable,” he explains. “We have dealt with all the brands in the football market for nearly 40 years – Adidas, Nike, Umbro, Hummel – and we know that Macron have been by far the best because their focus is fully on suppling teamwear. They carry a massive stock at their warehouse in Bologna and aren’t distracted by their retail arm.
“If we take an order, we are confident that we can receive delivery from Macron within one week, but we quote a three-week turnaround because there is the personalisation, such as printing initials and numbers in-house or sending the goods out to get embroidered. We’d rather say three-weeks and deliver early than two weeks and be late.”
Given Macron’s established foothold in the rugby world, it made perfect sense for his business to start looking in that direction.
“We are very confident that the rugby market isn’t so different that we won’t be able to supply the same quality of service as we do to our football clubs,” he says.
“Obviously, some of the kit is different – especially in terms of strips – but once you start looking beyond that: the warm-up tops, tracksuits, half-zips, all the leisurewear is almost identical. We want to become general teamwear suppliers as opposed to a very specialist football destination.
“The big plus for us is that the Macron brand is very strong in the rugby market because of their association with the Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors teams. They’ve also taken on Wales now, and given that they started off with Italy, they now have 50 percent of the Six Nations.”
Campbell is keen to stress that this is not just a speculative move. He is in the process of recruiting a new member of staff who will ideally have a rugby background so that he or she can become the go-to contact for clubs and schools.
“We like to build a relationship with the clients we deal with,” he explains. “We go out there and speak to them to find out what they really want and need. You could say, we like to work with a smaller number of clubs in a big way, rather than a huge number of clubs in a small way.
“But that is quite a hard path to tread because it’s quite tempting to take on more and more clubs. And if I’m being honest, we did find ourselves struggling in the past to maintain that level of service because we were trying to do too much, so that’s one of the things you pick up from all these years in the business, and that’s why we won’t take on anything that is undeliverable.
“It is quite a hard sell, because clubs quite understandably are looking to get the best deal going and if a big supplier promises them X amount of free kit or a huge discount, that seems like a great deal. We’re not necessarily going to be able to match that, and it isn’t always easy for us to demonstrate that in the longer term we will offer better value for money because we supply a reliable, personalised service.
“A lot of the time clubs end up dealing with a website. If they have a question then they send an email and hope to get a reply a couple of days later. We’re always at the other end of the phone.
Above and beyond
“For example, we got an email from our contact at one of the football clubs we supply this morning saying that he would be passing the shop on the way to work and that he had this training top which needs initials stuck on it. So, he called in at ten to nine, we’ve got the initials ready and zap them on, and he’s off to work. Now, you can’t do that with a company you have ordered from online, and that’s the kind of thing that means an awful lot to the clubs we supply.
“We feel we go above and beyond, but people don’t know that until they deal with us, so it is about persuading clubs to take the first step.
“Our aim is to find half a dozen – maybe ten – rugby clubs or schools, and to be their main supplier. We are not looking at selling to rugby clubs down in England or over in Ireland, because that’s not what we are about.
“I’m confident that if we sit down with any club or school and talk them through what we are offering, then they will see that we’re not in this for a quick buck. It has taken us a long time to build up our reputation and we’re proud of it.”
- The Offside Line’s grassroots rugby coverage is supported by Macron Store Edinburgh (Colin Campbell Sports), suppliers of Macron rugby strips and training wear.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about how Colin and his team can help your club with their kit requirements.