There Is No Offseason For… The Retail Department
Our latest installment of There Is No Offseason For… brings us to the Brewers Retail Department.
I sat down with Jill Aronoff, Senior Director of Retail and Merchandise Branding; Nathan Jaeckels, Retail Merchandising Manager; and Dave Siever, Authentics Manager, to discuss how they work year-round to provide fans with the latest and greatest in Brewers gear.
As head of the department, Jill’s main job is to work as a liaison between Delaware North, our concessionaire, and the Brewers. Delaware North runs our food and beverage service at Miller Park and they also run our retail operations.
Jill works with her counterparts at Delaware North on retail, helping to ensure that the right product is in the stores, with the right sizing and quantities and that it’s represented to the Club’s standards.
In addition to that, Jill’s department also runs our Authentics program (more on that in just a bit), as well as any specialty orders to fulfill front office needs, such as uniforms for gameday staff, or a gift for sponsors.
Jill’s been working in retail since she was 16 years old.
“Retail is in my blood,” she says. “I’ve worked for almost every major retailer, as well as studied textiles and clothing, with a fashion merchandising emphasis and a minor in apparel production.”
Jill got her start as intern for Macy’s, which brought her to San Francisco. After that, she added companies such as Nordstrom, The Gap and Timberland to her resume before making what she describes as a “career focus change” at Levi Strauss.
At Levi’s she started to delve into the marketing and target marketing aspects of the business.
“I feel like I got my second degree from Levi’s because I really learned a lot about target marketing, relationship building, et cetera. I helped start Levis.com and created their email campaigns. The original dot com craze hit and I branched out and started working at a startup. That’s how I got into sports,” she says.
Jill started working for a company called Quokka Sports, which partnered with NBC to produce the NBC Olympics website. Jill began working on the Sydney Olympics Store website, the America’s Cup website and other extreme sports that Quokka was involved in before making a connection with the CFO at the Oakland Raiders, which eventually led to a new position for Jill in the front office of her favorite NFL team.
“They didn’t have any openings but they created a job for me. I started running their fan club. I did a rewards program for them. I created their database. I ran their online store. I took over all the email marketing campaigns for their whole organization. I did marketing for the online store and the brick and mortar stores. Then I got recruited to come here,” she says.
Here, Jill is mainly involved in our brick and mortar stores at the ballpark, as the Brewers online store is run through Major League Baseball. However, Jill must work very closely with MLB, as the league has certain vendors and product licensees from which she can order. In addition, she attends multiple retail summits both in-season and during the offseason, where she is checking out the new offerings from vendors and placing orders.
Jill also helps manage the uniforms on the field.
“If there’s a new uniform I work with MLB on what that new uniform will look like. I work with the licensees like Majestic and Nike to make sure that’s represented on the field,” she said.
Jill noted that MLB and Majestic Athletic work together to make changes to the on-field uniforms in order to help improve the fabric performance, comfort and flexibility.
Jill says that for her, the main difference between in-season and the offseason is that is that the days are longer during the games.
“For retail, there is no offseason. The store is open every day, except Sundays during the offseason. We’re still going strong. Daily it doesn’t stop for us,” Jill says.
She also says that during the offseason, the focus shifts slightly to more planning and organizing, while during the season, it’s more implementing. Either way, they have a lot going on all the time.
For those unfamiliar with the retail industry, it might surprise you to learn how far in advance merchandise is ordered.
For example, items expected to hit the stores this coming spring were ordered by Jill’s team back in July and by the time the offseason hits, they’re starting to look at the fall line for the next season.
I asked Jill what some of the new styles and trends are that we have to look forward to and she told me, “Sports is pretty good about following the trends you see outside with the different textiles and patterns. There’ll be great fabrication, a lot of burnouts, and a lot of foil applications that we’ll be seeing. We definitely try to make sure we have something for everybody from the very first Brewers fan born two months ago, to the fan that’s been a fan for over 70 years. We have something for everybody, every size, fit, style.”
Jill’s team will add in novelties and last minute items as well.
Jill’s staff is comprised of Nathan and Dave, both Sport Management majors from Cardinal Stritch. Nathan and David have a big hand in the Club’s Authentics program, which encompasses game-used items, autographed items, and specialty collector’s items.
Nathan got his start with the Club in 2011 as one of our College Ambassador interns. While in that gig, he helped Jill out with a few projects, which led to further positions as Jill’s assistant in a part-time role, until he recently became a full-time member of the staff.
Nathan’s primary role involves Authentics, where he helps to run the online auctions on mlb.com; tracks and fulfills all the sales related to our Authentics items; and runs the @MILAuthentics Twitter account.
Nathan also works with Jill to come up with fun promotions for the Brewers Team Stores at Miller Park, like the “Moonshot Markdown,” where, if a player hits a home run during the game, fans can get $5 off that player’s t-shirt or jersey for the remainder of the game; or “10 for The Win,” where fans get 10% off that day’s winning Famous Racing Sausage items; or the #HanksHangout Twitter promotion.
This offseason, he says he’s working on recapping last year, projections for next year and budgeting.
“I’m looking at what type of Authentics products we want to bring in next year, inventory management, and helping come up with more fun promotions for fans next season,” Nathan said.
Dave got his start with the Brewers in 2006, working in the Clubhouse as a bat boy. As he grew in that role, he graduated to working more inside the Clubhouse, where he helped take care of the players’ needs in terms of Clubhouse set-up and take down, and dealing with their equipment—making sure that everything was stocked and ready to go for the game.
Dave’s familiarity with the players and their equipment gave him a unique edge when the job for Authentics Manager was posted in 2013.
“I had a lot of experience and background with equipment and that kind of stuff,” he said. “It’s basically knowing a story behind each piece of equipment that we’re dealing with.”
Dave’s primary job now is managing the Authentics kiosk behind Section 111 on the concourse. Items are also available in the Brewers Team Stores, via the Brewers Authentics Shop on MLB.com (where a portion of the proceeds goes to Brewers Community Foundation) and they’ll have an area at Brewers on Deck at the end of this month.
“We work closely with MLB to authenticate anything we get from the Clubhouse—bases, bats, baseballs, jerseys, you name it,” Dave said.
The authentication process is quite interesting. MLB provides authenticators at every game. Their job is verify the authenticity of broken bats, jerseys, bases, baseballs, or any other items that we request. A hologram sticker containing a 6-digit number and two letters is then applied to the items. Fans who purchase the items (they can even preorder some of it) can then visit the MLB website where they can enter the code, which will bring up a description of the item.
Dave works with Nathan to maintain the current inventory and also to obtain new items. This offseason, one unique item they acquired were some Miller Park turnstiles. They sold 19 in a matter of a week.
“Anything that represents Miller Park or the Brewers is fair game to get authenticated, but it all comes down to what customers want, how unique it is,” Dave said.
“It’s the story behind the product,” Nathan added. “After Martin Maldonado’s walk-off on Mother’s Day, we got his Gatorade-soaked jersey. We got Jungmann’s MLB debut jersey, Ryan Braun’s 250th career home run ball, et cetera.”
Depending on what the item is, some of the items are kept for the Brewers archives, given to the players as mementos, or turned around to be sold to fans. They even get items pertaining to other team items. For example, Kris Bryant’s first home run was here at Miller Park, so they were able to sell the bases from that game.
“You get some really unique merchandise that die-hard fans, collectors really appreciate,” Nathan said.
“I think our department is one of the most fun because we get to interact with the fans every day,” Jill noted. “We get to help them take home a piece of the game and help them feel like they’re a part of the team.”
With under just over a month to go, Jill, Nathan and Dave—like most of us—are looking forward to Spring Training where this year, the store in Maryvale, Arizona is set to open on February 11.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to check out our new uniforms and the new merchandise in the store. Even though I’ve worked here for years and a majority of my wardrobe contains some sort of Brewers insignia, for me, it’s kind of like going back-to-school shopping. I need to get a few new items to start the year (or season) off right.
I’m sure Jill and her staff have picked out some great stuff we have to look forward to.