Startup lets sports fans rent their team's jerseys, swap them out

BURLINGAME, Calif. (KGO) -- Millions of sports fans show their passion by draping themselves in team gear -- but gosh, it's expensive.

"It was like $150 to $200 per jersey,'' Burlingame father Collin Woo said.

For his two school-age boys, one jersey is never enough.

"When football season is here, they want football jerseys, then basketball comes and they want basketball.," he said.

His sons Brandon and Noah follow several Bay Area teams. "Raiders, Warriors, A's, Dodgers,'' Brandon said.

And players. "Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Marshawn Lynch,'' Noah said.

That's a lot of jerseys, which is what led Collin to a Seattle-based startup called Rep the Squad -- a sort of Rent the Runway for sports jerseys.

For a monthly fee of $19.95 for adults and $17.95 for kids, customers can order any jersey, wear it as long as they want, then swap it out for another one. They can exchange jerseys as many times as they want.

Shipping is free. So is cleaning.

Rep the Squad CEO Brian Watkins sees the company as part of a growing consumer world of renting instead of owning. The trend took root years ago with the subscription service that delivered DVD's to your door. Now consumers can rent anything from evening gowns to bicycles -- or Uber instead of buying a car.

"Why own something when you can just use it?" Watkins says. "Why not apply that same logic to sports jerseys?"

Renting also is less of a commitment in a world where teams and players are always shifting.

"Consider you just bought a jersey and that player just got traded,'' Watkins said. "You're stuck."

Miami Heat fans may not want that $200 LeBron James jersey after he moved to Cleveland. Oklahoma City fans may spurn their Kevin Durant merchandise. Then there are the Raiders fans burning gear since the team said it's moving to Las Vegas.

However, some say outdated merchandise could be treasured even more -- collector items and keepsakes of a bygone era.

"If you have that jersey that you want to keep, they all come with a sale price too,'' Watkins assures. "Say you got it autographed (while renting it) and you want to keep it, we'll make you a deal. A discount price for a used item."

Collin says his kids get excited at the prospect of receiving a new jersey in the mail every week or two.

"I wear them to school and it's kind of fun to show it off,'' Noah says.

"It would be kind of boring just to have one jersey,'' Brandon adds.

It's practical also, since buying a jersey is a $150 to $200 investment that will soon be too small for his fast-growing boys.

But what if you damage your rented jersey?

"It's OK to have fun in your jersey,'' Watkins says. "We do see the occasional mustard stains and grass stains. But we also have a professional cleaning team.''

Even if it's torn or marked up, he says he'd be forgiving -- at least the first time it happened.

"If it becomes a problem, then we follow up with you,'' he says. "Yeah if it's all cut up we'll make you pay for it."

So far, no one's been charged for destroying a shirt.

Rep the Squad is just starting up, and so far carries gear only for a few teams, most on the West Cost. They include the Raiders, 49ers, Seahawks, Detroit Lions and the Warriors. It'll offer Major League Baseball gear when the season starts this spring.

The selection goes deep for some teams. It includes the entire Warriors' bench. For other teams, it carries mostly stars. The offerings also include icons from the past like Joe Montana and Magic Johnson.

On a recent day, Collin's boys rushed to the mailbox to get their latest deliveries. The jerseys come freshly cleaned in small brown boxes sealed with the company logo. Noah and Brandon tear them open, forgetting what they'd ordered. They get a Steph Curry jersey for Brandon, and Marshawn Lynch for Noah.

A plastic bag with a postage-paid mailing label is stuffed inside. When the kids are tired of wearing their current jersey, they'll send it back and get another.

So is wearing a different jersey better than owning one?

"Sometimes I don't want to give it back,'' Noah says, pausing. "But then, I'm also excited for the next jersey too."

What do you think? Is it better to commit to one player you love and keep your jersey? Or pay a subscription fee instead of having your own?

Written and produced by Renee Koury

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