When Roy Wilson started selling TT merchandise through his network of ‘Judi’ Newsagents back in the 1980’s he had no idea that it would ultimately lead him to actually operating the exclusive license to produce official TT Races merchandise.
But that’s exactly what happened 20 years later through his Isle of Man based company, Motorsport Merchandise in a process that evolved from the then Department of Tourism and Leisure’s strategy to develop the commercial side of the TT races in 2005.
‘The commercial value of the TT really only began to be realised once the Department formally established the TT trademark and they could begin to capitalise on its value to sponsors and licensees,’ explained Roy from his Strand Street TT Merchandise store.’
Today Motorsport Merchandise operation employs six full time and four part time staff, a team that expands to 37 during the TT itself when the company operates a 150m square retail operation at the back of the TT grandstand selling everything from T-shirts and jackets to pin badges, mugs and TT mascots.
‘We’ve seen a real change in the type of clothes that people are now buying.
‘TT fans used to just buy a t-shirt and wear it during the event itself but now we are producing fashionable year round clothing such as TT hoodies based on popular high street designs,’ Roy explained.
Sales aren’t confined just to the Isle of Man either.
This year Roy has already visited Phillip Island Race Track in Australia with TT riders John McGuinness, Cameron Donald, Gary Johnson and Ryan Farquhar competing during their Classic Race festival, an event according to Roy that ‘felt like the back of the TT grandstand because so many people were wearing TT branded merchandise.’
The tight knit family business was started by Roy’s wife Dinah and employs their daughter Judith as commercial manager but as the business has grown they have now employed a marketing and operations manager, Paul Wheeldon and sales and marketing executive Yvette Hollows who looks after the independent local and International trader accounts.
The company’s mail order business now delivers to over 40 countries worldwide while they also have partnerships with distributors in Australia, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Taiwan, Belgium and New Zealand.
Roy is in no doubt where this growth has come from. ‘The TT riders have become stars in their own right and where previously you might have one or two riders who were well known you’ve now got at least 10 that can feasibly win races.
The worldwide television coverage and the TT3D film has also helped to establish the profile of these riders which has undoubtedly driven international demand.’
The exclusive license that Motorsport Merchandise holds requires them to pay a license fee to the Department of Economic Development that is invested back into the event to reduce the cost to the public purse but Motorsport Merchandise is keen to involve other similar businesses on the island and allows them to share in the TT’s success.
‘We work with many of the island’s independent retailers such as Manx T-shirts, Top 2 Toe and Dolce Vita who all sell our merchandise.
‘It’s not about shutting people out, just making sure that the right kind of quality merchandise is available to fans, and that the event itself has a sustainable future by benefiting from the sales.’
So it’s worth remembering when you buy TT clothing this year that not only are you helping it to continue to be the jewel in the island’s sporting calendar,
You’re also part of a growing worldwide fashion trend!