Florida State will take the field in less than two weeks, likely wearing garnet jerseys with white numerals — a color combination that returned in 2020 and has been celebrated by fans.
Seminoles fans who have been waiting for years and seeking to buy those jerseys have seen delays due to COVID-related issues that impacted production and shipping. For the 2021 season, Nike chose to produce a No. 1 jersey but the arrival has been delayed and remains a moving target (no other numeral jerseys will be available).
“There’s labor issues and supply chain issues and that’s very much affecting licensed product and that’s why our fans are not able to purchase the white number jerseys right now,” said Katie Pugh, FSU’s director of trademark licensing. “I’ve been told that they should land any day, but at this point it could be very well after the Notre Dame game.”
The timing has been well beyond FSU’s control as well as local and online retailers. In a normal year, FSU’s jerseys would arrive by early August with plenty of time for fans to purchase in store or online and be ready for fans to wear ahead of the opener and throughout the season. Even the football coaches’ sideline apparel has been delayed and may not arrive in time for the season opener, Pugh said.
Nike, and many other licensees of Florida State, have had supply chain issues sourcing materials and have been forced to shut down or limit production in factories in Central America, South America and Asia due to COVID cases, which has impacted the jerseys made for FSU as well as a variety of college football programs. Additionally, ports in the United States are also overwhelmed with container ships, leaving merchandise sitting on boats for weeks and often longer.
“We had a container that was delayed 45 days,” said Kyle Luttell of Image One, which produces T-shirts and sweatshirts with FSU logos for sale at stores like Alumni Hall, Garnet & Gold and Fanatics.com. “It sat outside of the Long Beach (California) port for 45 days before they were able to offload the product to get it onto trucks and trains to us. And I think that’s a shortage of workers or still some social distancing and things that are happening that’s creating some challenges with how much people can be around each other. I see this at least going into the spring, if not the summer of next year.”
The plan to bring back garnet jerseys with white numerals were discussed at length and have been in place since May 2019. The goal was to have garnet jerseys with white numerals available to fans at the same time the Seminoles debuted them last fall. But when COVID hit factories around the world, the shutdowns meant stores had existing merchandise but could not acquire new apparel on a normal schedule from a licensee.
“We would have wanted these jerseys out here weeks ago or last season, quite honestly,” Pugh said. “We know that our fans want them, and we want to sell them. Unfortunately, we’re not the ones sourcing and manufacturing the product and selling the product to retailers, we’re the ones approving designs and approving vendors.”
There are numerous other issues impacting the selection of FSU product that fans are available to purchase this season. With supply limited for FSU’s garnet — as well as Carolina blue for UNC, burnt orange for Texas or orange for Tennessee — licensees are having to look to produce T-shirts with “blanks” that are easier to acquire like white, gray and black. The availability of blanks in FSU’s garnet in size XL is non-existent right now, Pugh said.
There are also licensees that make “quick turn product,” apparel which typically is produced in weeks and is often made to replenish popular designs or react to key wins. However, this year product will not be able to flow into the market as quickly as was seen in past seasons due to supply chain issues.
With the garnet jerseys and white numerals, FSU fans will need to be patient a little longer. But whether it’s a T-shirt, jersey or another piece of apparel in stores or online, waiting to purchase could be a mistake as supply chain concerns will impact the industry for months ahead and potentially into 2022.
“What I recommend to fans is if you want team color, don’t hesitate,” Luttell said. “You need to buy early. Later in the year, due to supply chain issues, you might see your market look more neutral colors in the whites, blacks and grays.”