A collection of caps from Mint Green Group in Pointe-Claire.
Dave Sidaway / jpg
Toronto is not the only place with a case of Raptors fever these days.The Pointe-Claire-based Mint Green Group, which produces licensed sports apparel under the ’47 brand for many of North America’s top professional leagues, is working around the clock to keep up with the exploding demand for NBA championship Raptors’ gear.“We’re doing four to five times the amount of business we normally do with the Raptors and NBA,” said company CEO Joanne Fletcher. “We are working day and night to keep up with demand. Really, it has been spectacular.”
Mint Green Group CEO Joanne Fletcher in Pointe-Claire.
Dave Sidaway /
Much of the ’47 brand merchandise, of course, is going to Toronto, home of the newly crowned NBA champs. The upstart Raptors have not only captured the imagination of sports fans across Canada, they’ve become, almost overnight, the hottest sports brand in the country.Fletcher said there has never been anything like it since the company was founded 45 years ago by her father Ted Fletcher. She recalls the last big crush for team apparel occurred in 1993 when the Toronto Blue Jays captured the World Series. “Remember the Joe Carter home run? It’s literally been 25 years since we had something this big. And these are moments in this business you live for. You try to have preparation meet opportunity, and then the opportunity comes and you have to keep running.”Interestingly, Blue Jays gear outsold the Stanley Cup-champion Montreal Canadiens that spring. “The Habs’ ‘93 Cup was big, but not as big as the Blue Jays,” noted Fletcher.Although Mint Green is also a licensee partner for the NHL, NFL and MLB, Fletcher said the current demand for NBA Raptors’ apparel is now outstripping all other lines.“We’ve produced about 70,000 units (or T-shirts) since May 27 when the Raptors advanced to the championship round,” she said.“It really has exploded and hasn’t stopped. So many people want to participate. It’s the power of sport to bring people together, and in this case, to bring the country together. It’s amazing how many people want to participate, to own a piece of it,” she added.Fletcher, who grew up in Beaconsfield and now lives in Toronto, shuttles between Montreal and Toronto during the work week. Her grandfather Pat Fletcher, the longtime former pro at Royal Montreal Golf Club, was the last Canadian golfer to win the Canadian Open in 1954.She said the demand for Raptors gear in Toronto, where Kawhi Leonard is king, is off the charts. “Every time I walk into a sports store the shelves have been picked clean. And retailers are asking, ‘When can I get more stuff’?”The Mint Green operation, located on the Highway 40 south service road, across from the Fairview Pointe-Claire shopping centre, employs about 65 people. But the company has added ‘temps’ in the wake of the Raptors’ craze.
Christerleen Snagg adds labels to T-shirts at Mint Green Group in Pointe-Claire last Wednesday.
Dave Sidaway /
While the ’47 brand T-shirts are made overseas, they are printed, prepped and packed in Pointe-Claire. Twice-daily truck shipments deliver the merchandise to retail destinations across Canada.“About 75 per cent (to) 80 is going outside of Quebec, but we’re selling a ton of Raptors’ stuff in Montreal, too,” Fletcher said. “This championship has given rise to this whole new generation of fans. That young generation that, I think, are going to stay NBA fans for a good, long time.”Fletcher said the company was prepared in advance to meet the supply and demand of a potential Raptors championship.“We started planning for this, even before they made the playoffs, which we do every year just in case,” she said.“We have a ‘What If ?’ program for every league and every season. Our graphics team actually started to design and make championship graphics at the start of the first round. We sent out sell sheets to our sales reps and our retailers and said, ‘No commitment, but place your orders and if they win, you’re in and if they don’t then obviously the orders gets cancelled.’ So there was a lot of preparation that went into the arrival of this opportunity so we could really strike quickly.”For example, the popular “We the North” tagline was tweaked to “We the Champs” by Costa Kargas, the company’s graphic design creator who came up with the idea back in March.Fletcher said these are indeed good times to be in the sports apparel biz.“If you’re going to be in this business you have to love sport, even sometimes when it breaks your heart. I can’t tell you how many times we prepared for a championship with all the same level or preparedness we did for this one and it didn’t happen.“You deal with it and move on, but these are the moments you remember.”firstname.lastname@example.orgRelated