Rockford schools consider apparel license with Target producer

Pel Industries, the company that produces local sports apparel for large retail stores, recently tapped Rockford Area Schools to enter into a license agreement.

In exchange for licensing privileges, the company would pay an 8% royalty for all goods sold. Pel is the only brand to produce high school apparel for Target.

When the topic was addressed at the May 15 meeting, Superintendent Paul Durand did not expect much to come of the item, citing preliminary emails of distaste from board members. He prefaced that this was an example of proposals the school receives from time to time that the public may not know about.

Board member Amy Edwards believed that entering into an agreement would be a “low blow” to community partners. Logo shops like Selly’s Custom Apparel and the apparel produced purchased through Rocket Boosters may feel slighted if the board purposely introduced more competition.

Board member Lia Hall noted that a group of students had recently opened a school store that sold licensed apparel, which had already created a rift with other local producers. “This is a contentious issue,” said Hall. “I’m not sure this is a good time.”

Apparel producers in the community “all do excellent work,” agreed board member Ted Botten, but saw the request as a marketing opportunity. Target stores in Buffalo and Medina cover opposite ends of the district, and the agreement would add a Rockford presence if their apparel was presented next to Buffalo and Wayzata school districts’.

“It’s free advertising,” said Botten. “It may be helpful to get more information on this.”

According to the materials provided by Pel Industries, a company from Arkansas, the contract is free, non-exclusive and automatically renews every year. If the board wanted to terminate the contract early, they would need to give Pel 90 days advance and Pel would use that period to sell their remaining apparel. Pel would also reserve the right to cancel.

Local apparel producers use the official school logos under an agreement, but others like Casey’s General Store do not use official images and so get away without a contract for their Rockford schools-themed apparel. Since the contract with Pel is not exclusive, no current agreements would be affected.

However, with state funding inequities, there remains an uncertain atmosphere for public schools like Rockford. Without enough state funding, Rockford may have to look into holding a levy referendum again. Board member Chuck Tryon noted that it may be prudent to pause discussion on the license agreement for now, and reconsider in the event of a failed levy in the fall.

“If [the levy] doesn’t happen, we’re going to have to try a lot of new things to find money,” Tryon said.

After the levy failure last fall, the school was considering significant cuts to activities and programming in order to not further deplete their fund balance, or savings. Through donations, the district was able to keep most programs and activities without using too much of its reserves. Without substantial state funding in the future, continuing to rely on the fund balance and donations could spell trouble for Rockford schools in the next few years.

The board agreed to postpone a decision for the time being. In the future, the board may look into agreements like Pel Industries’ instead of making future cuts to district programs and activities. “You can deepen the cuts, or find better ways to make money,” said Tryon.