Wimbledon towels

Are you as surprised as me to learn that the organisers of Wimbledon lose about 4,000 of the specially produced Championship towels, a new design each year, which are handed out to competitors on court?

Apparently there’s no limit to the amount of towels a player can ask for during a game and a number of players are notorious for walking off-court with large numbers of these coveted items. And we’re not talking about also-rans – many of the top players make no secret of the fact that they plan to request as many towels as they can fit in their bag.

What happens to the towels that get left behind? Apparently they are laundered and sold for charity.

Leaving aside the moral issue of stealing – what makes players who earn millions of pounds stoop to taking a sweaty towel home with them? It’s not as if this is the only way of acquiring this item – you can acquire this year’s towel for £29 from the on-line Wimbledon shop.  Some, but not all, players who admitted to being towel-takers, said they gave them away to relatives, friends or their support team members.

The cynic in me says that one reason is that we all like something for nothing – apparently some of the wealthiest people in the world still love a bargain or a freebie! And this is the case even when it’s an item that is readily available to buy – which brings me to my next point.

Yes you can buy a 2016 Championship towel – but is this really the same as one actually used by one of the tennis greats on say Centre Court?  Of course it’s not – it’s a question of cachet. These become collectors’ items and acquire a value well beyond what they cost to buy new. Not only that, but a collection spanning a number of editions will be worth more as a whole than the sum of the value of the individual parts.

Maybe we can learn a business strategy from this. Why not give your best customers (or indeed all customers) low-cost limited edition items that can only be acquired by purchasing from you. Better still, have a range of the items (good, better, best) that customers qualify for by buying more.  With luck these could become coveted collectibles and, who knows, appear in due course on Antiques Road Show!

Let me know if any of you out there have already succeeded with this strategy!