The University Athletic Department announced last week that The M-Den will once again be the official merchandiser for University athletics.

When M-Den’s 10-year contract expired in June 2009, the Texas-based apparel company eSports Partner Inc. outcompeted M-Den and other companies to become the University’s new merchandiser for the next decade.

Jason Winters, the chief financial officer for the athletic department, told The Michigan Daily at the time that eSports Partners Inc. promised to make $1.5 million dollars in its first year as merchandiser. According to Winters, M-Den typically generated $500,000 to $600,000 per year.

“There were a number of entities interested,” Winters said at the time. “We were looking for better royalty rates, economic performance (and the) ability to grow and respond to consumers.”
The athletic department has terminated its contract with eSports Partners Inc. after one year, Winters said, because the company failed to meet performance standards set in the contract.

“There were several issues that allowed us to terminate the agreement and get out of it. There was a general service element that was missing as well as a financial element,” he said. “In general terms, they failed to reach their guaranteed sales and royalty levels.”

He added that the athletic department was pleased with the company’s performance during football game days last fall, but as the year went on, product availability became an issue and the e-commerce side of business was not up to par.

Winters said the athletic department originally thought this partnership would be an improvement over the partnership with M-Den, but ultimately “this is one of those situations where you live and learn.”

In the June 22 press release, University Athletic Director David Brandon expressed optimism in the renewed partnership with M-Den.

“The M-Den has shown incredible loyalty to the Michigan fan base and local community with incomparable customer service, and with the variety and quality of their products,” he said. “I am confident our fans will continue to show that same loyalty to our new official retail partner.”

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