United’s Blues Store is now into its second week of trading following the return from the Covid-19 lockdown and chief executive Nigel Clibbens explained this week the next steps to be taken as fans eagerly await the arrival of the 2020/21 replica and training kits.
“Our supporters will have seen that we made a decision early on that we felt we needed to put the health and safety of our staff first, simply because of the unknowns the onset of this virus brought with it,” he told us.
“The furlough scheme allowed us to keep our staff in lockdown, and we’ve been very cautious about how we’ve implemented the return to work.
“Clearly the football side of the club is in complete lockdown training wise, but the timing means that we’re actually in what would be their closed-season anyway. That will change for them shortly, and once we get into July we’ll see that things will start to accelerate with that.
“Included in that will be recruitment, and the announcements you would expect to hear at this stage of the summer will start to come along once again. There has been a lot of recruitment work going on in the background, but the fruits of it won’t become apparent for a little while yet.”
“More specifically with the Blues Store, we decided we’d take a three-phased approach with that side of the business,” he explained. “The first step was to get the online store up and running again, which we did, and that was off the back of having made the decision 14 weeks ago to completely shut that part of things down.
“We didn’t want a member of staff coming in to fulfil orders on either one or two days each week because, again, we didn’t want to take any risks with this virus. The feeling was that there were bigger things to worry about at that stage than online orders, safety had to come first.
“I know some people will and have disagreed with us taking that approach, but I can’t stress enough how much we felt that staying safe was the most important thing we could do to help the overall situation.”
“The next step was to reopen the Store itself,” he added. “We did that last week, and it was good to see that it was busy throughout Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“We’ll be open for those same three days every week going forward, and the short-term objective is to liquidate the old stock from last year, so there are some very good bargains to be had.
“Obviously certain lines and sizes have sold out, and there are gaps within some of our ranges, but that’s just the effect of it being the end of the year with this type of stock.
“The third stage will be the kit launch, and the good news is that much of that has already been delivered. We were missing one adult size in the home kit, which we raised as a concern, and that has temporarily held everything back.
“It would be counter-productive to launch with an incomplete range, particularly when the missing items just happen to be the most popular size. The update on that is that it’s due in any time now, and we’ll work onwards from that arrival with a kit launch date.
“Pending successful delivery, I would anticipate that our launch will be at some point in July, and I know that’s something we’re all looking forward to.
“I’ve seen on Twitter that somebody was asking if they could see a preview, and others responded with ‘well it’s obviously going to be blue’ - and I don’t think we can argue with that when it comes to the home kit.
“I think it’s fair for me to say that the away kit is certainly a radical colour and it’ll get people talking. It’ll be a love it or hate it type kit, in my opinion, and I can say with hand on heart that I think it’s great, I love it. It’s one that’ll make us stand out.
“We’re all excited about it and the kit launch is always something that gives everybody a boost because it’s a big step towards the start of a new season. We’re now into the minor practicalities of getting ready, so watch this space for details and dates.”