EghtesadOnline: Iran’s sportswear market is mainly dominated by foreign products.
Many Iranian sports teams and athletes tend to regard foreign brands as their first choice when it comes to sports clothes and equipment.
Since reliance on domestic production has been placed on top of Iran’s economic agenda in recent years, focusing on local products is essential to promote domestic production and to bring growth into this sector.
If Iranian sports teams and athletes were to realize that domestic products are of comparably high quality, they will not purchase low-quality foreign products sold under famous names at high prices, Financial Tribune reported.
More trust from people and managers will give a boost to domestic production.
The above statements were made by Mohammad Reza Baba-Mohammadi, sales manager of Merooj Inc.—an Iranian producer and brand for athletic shoes, clothing and accessories.
In an interview with Financial Tribune, Baba-Mohammadi explained the ongoing issues in Iran’s sportswear industry and shared his opinions about the market conditions.
Merooj Inc. was established in 1987 by Majid Saeedifar who was an official physical therapist of Iran national football team.
At the beginning, the company was solely a soccer balls distributor. Gradually, it evolved to become a global marketer of athletic footwear, apparel and equipment.
Merooj is known internationally as the official apparel supplier for the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.
Now Merooj has two factories in Iran, one in Salman-Shahr, Mazandaran Province, and the other in Andimeshk, Khuzestan Province.
The company supplies athletic apparel and equipment to different Iranian teams, namely football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, canoeing and squash.
Baba-Mohammadi believes job losses in this industry are rooted in the fact that sportswear sold in Iran is mainly imported despite the high potential of domestic producers.
“Sportswear products, for example, from Uhlsport, Joma, Nike or Adidas sold in Iran are made in other countries, mainly China, and then imported. There is no production or job creation for that matter here. But our production remains 100% domestic,” he said.
Baba-Mohammadi noted that if hurdles in the way of local producers are cleared and the government extends more support, domestic production can significantly grow and create more jobs.
According to the official, Merooj has employed over 200 people.
Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has constantly emphasized the need to boost domestic production as an integral approach for triggering Iran’s economic growth.
The leader has urged government officials to direct their efforts to fulfill the two crucial tasks of promoting domestic production and increasing employment to achieve the goals of Resistance Economy.
Resistance Economy embodies a set of principles aimed at curbing dependence on oil export revenues, improving productivity and reducing the government’s role in the economy to make the country immune to economic wars waged by foreign powers.
It was first proposed by the leader in 2011, amid the tightening of economic sanctions against Tehran by the US and its allies, including measures to limit Iran’s oil exports, under the pretext that Tehran intends to build nuclear weapons.
On the subject of competition with foreign brands in terms of price and quality, Baba-Mohammadi said prices of Merooj products are much more affordable compared to Nike or Adidas.
“Of course, we take pride in the quality of our products as well since our production line enjoys up-to-date manufacturing technology and our staff are well-trained,” he added.
Merooj is the only official sportswear brand in Iran, which is internationally recognized. The company exports to 25 countries worldwide.
Notably, in the 2016 Summer Olympics, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, more than 16 countries used Merooj-produced wrestling singlets in the wrestling competitions.
The customers’ mentality toward purchasing quality sportswear is problematic, the sales manager of Merooj said.
Domestically-made sports apparel and equipment is the last choice of Iranian sports managers, as they mostly prefer foreign brands not because of quality, but because they consider it prestigious to use a product with a “foreign” logo.
When it comes to purchasing domestic products, they are always looking for ways to pay the least possible price without any attention to quality. This is while quality is decisive in sports apparel because it greatly affects players’ performance.
According to Baba-Mohammadi, Merooj products make use of Coolmax technology.
Coolmax is a brand name for a series of moisture-wicking technical fabrics developed in 1986 by DuPont Textiles and Interiors (now Invista). The fabrics employ specially-engineered polyester fibers to improve “breathability” compared to natural fibers like cotton.
Referring to the supply of raw materials from overseas as another major problem facing local producers, the sales manager said since imported raw materials are used, production costs rise.
“This affects the prices of final products, effectively making producers lose their competitive edge,” he said.
Highlighting the importance of government support, Baba-Mohammadi said the government can help by, for example, easing tax regulations for producers and providing them with incentives, which would lower production costs and ultimately the final prices.
According to the sales manager, the Ministry of Sports and Youth has instructed Iranian sports teams to use domestic products unless there is an absolute need for foreign counterparts.
Baba-Mohammadi said Merooj aims to become one of the top 100 sportswear makers in the world.