'They know that' - Peter Ridsdale assesses Preston North End kit deal and off the field priorities

Peter RidsdalePeter Ridsdale
Peter Ridsdale | CameraSport - Andrew Kearns
The PNE director speaks to the Lancashire Post

Preston North End director Peter Ridsdale is pleased with new kit provider Castore on the whole - but recognises the issue of stock shortage.

The Lilywhites announced their new partnership, starting from the 2023/24 campaign, back in February of this year. Having already linked up with England Cricket, Newcastle United, McLaren Racing and others, PNE struck a deal which saw Castore provide unique kits and also take over the club's retail operation at Deepdale.

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A new store and online shop came as a result, with North End's away and third kits red and yellow respectively - to go with the traditional white, home strip. Those were received pretty well upon launch and release, but supporters have since been frustrated at the lack of availability in recent months. That is not lost on Ridsdale - and his only real gripe to date.

"I think the one thing I will say about Castore, with us, is that the kit has been outstanding - the quality, the training gear," said Ridsdale. "I know there is one high profile kit that's had a problem, which is nothing to do with us. My frustration, as an ex-retailer, is you can only sell products if you've got products. And, we haven't had enough for too long now. When it comes in, it flies out because it's so good. For example, there was a massive drop last Friday in the shop and they were nine times over budget on Monday. Tuesday went in the same direction and they're having to get some more stock in for this weekend.

"Now, the good news is that's because people are loving it and buying it. The bad news is that we need even more of it. One criticism we've had in the past is our kits being 'hand-me-downs' from the Premier League - and not unique for PNE. What Castore have delivered, is a unique product which has been tailored to us. The problem with that is that they've had to guesstimate what we'll sell, so we gave them historic sales and we've already blown the budget for the year - in terms of what we anticipated to sell. So, that is good news, but the problem is we need even more of it. So, am I happy? Yes. Are they responsive? Yes. Are they surprised how well our product has been received? Yes. And the only frustration is that there hasn't been enough stock in the shop.

"They know that because I've expressed it in no uncertain terms, regularly, to them. It is better than having too much stock that nobody wants to buy, however you go out of business if you don't have enough best-sellers. So, we are trying to drive them and they are replenishing as fast as they can. And remember, they operate the shop - we don't. It is their staff and stock; what we get is royalties on every sale and so it's in our interest to get as many sales as possible.

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"But, we are not left with unsold stock at the end of the season. So, from a cash point of view, it made sense to do it the way we've done it and - as I say - they've been brilliant in terms of the brand and quality. However, we are quality we haven't got even more - particularly the non-playing stock: the green hoodies and all the stuff people have been asking about. They are flying out and they're doing really well, so it was the right change to make. We are delighted, they are a great brand to do business with. We just want to take even more money than we are doing."

North End have been busy off the pitch this calendar year - fixing the Alan Kelly Town End roof, changing the catering provider, launching a new fan zone and installing boards around Deepdale's pitch. Ridsdale also outlined what is next on the agenda.

"I think there are all sorts of things that we're looking at, every day of the week," said Ridsdale. "As you know, as well as kit provider we changed the conference & banqueting provider to Sodexo - they have already taken five times more Christmas orders this year, than we've done in the last five years. I know we had Covid, but you go there any day of the week and it's busy with business on a non-matchday. That helps us of course, because we get royalties on all those sales. So, Sodexo is a great move, Gentry Bar great move, kit supplier great move and there are other things we need to do around the stadium.

"The Town End, which we did in the summer, was obviously expensive. Other stands are showing signs of wear and tear, which we need to do something about. We want to upgrade the floodlight power and again, that's not cheap. In an ideal world, we'd have a Desso pitch, but that's one million quid. The pitch is very good, but it's sand based, so we are looking at that. We cannot do it overnight, because there's only so much cash you've got. The list is never ending and we never stop, but we've got a programme we're working to and we'll continue to invest in the infrastructure - as well as the playing squad."

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On Desso pitches, for those who are unaware, Ridsdale added: "A Desso pitch is actually a brand, but it's essentially grass which is grown with little plastic pieces - which hold the grass in so that it doesn't pull out. Just about every Premier League club has got it. Some would argue it maybe results in some of the injuries you see take place, because if the boot gets stuck in it then the grass stays in.

"It's expensive, but it'll last longer - which is why some Premier League clubs can play their ladies team games or rugby league games on the same pitch. You don't see the same wear and tear, so it's aspirational. If we got to the Premier League, I think we'd do it anyway. Some clubs in the Championship will have it, particularly if they've been in the Premier League. It is part grass, part artificial and the artificial is just where the grass is growing around with little plastic holes in it. That's ideal, so we'd go down that route if and when we can."

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