Just ahead of the big Super Bowl game this weekend, Walmart is making a deal to woo sports fans. On Tuesday, the big-box retailer announced a long-term partnership with Fanatics, one of the largest sellers of licensed sports apparel.
Through the partnership, the two will launch a specialty shop of fan gear on Walmart.com, according to a Walmart blog post.
This week, Fan Shop by Fanatics began offering "hundreds of thousands" of items from professional sports leagues, like jerseys, hats and collectibles.
Walmart.com now offers more than 75 million items and where it grows will be in "harder-to-find specialty items," Eric O'Toole, general manager of Sports and Fitness at Walmart U.S. eCommerce, said in the blog post.
"Today's announcement of our partnership with Fanatics is part of this ongoing commitment to create unique, specialized experiences on Walmart.com that make it easier to find the items our customers (in this case, sports fans) are looking for," he said.
Walmart's investments in its e-commerce business have amplified since its 2016 purchase of Jet.com and the acqui-hire of its U.S. e-commerce chief Marc Lore. Initiatives have ranged from website redesigns and more acquisitions of digitally native brands to product assortment expansions and partnerships such as this one with Fanatics. In their own way, these are all bits and pieces of armor to fend off Amazon.
So far, digital efforts appear to be paying off. In the second quarter of 2018, Walmart sales grew the highest they have in over 10 years. In the most recently reported quarter, Walmart e-commerce sales grew 43%.
For Fanatics, partnering with a mass merchandiser is a way to reach the greatest swath of customers. But its loyalty doesn't only lie with Walmart. Last year, Fanatics announced 650 shop-in-shops within J.C. Penney as well as a 10-year partnership with Nike and the National Football League to be the exclusive consumer product licensing rights to manufacture and distribute Nike NFL products. Deals like this set up the company for long-term growth, and partnerships with major retailers provide a platform to sell.