International Women's Day: Andrea Morris
In the lead up to International Women's Day on March 8 we profile five women involved in five different aspects of life at Swansea City. Today, we speak to the club's head of retail, Andrea Morris.
Every summer there is always that buzz of excitement when Swansea City’s new kits are unveiled for the first time, but imagine how you would feel if you had actually had a hand in selecting the final designs that fans will wear home and away over the season to come?
Spare a thought then for Andrea Morris, Swansea City’s head of retail, who is at the heart of what is a year-long process to get the latest Joma merchandise on the shelves for the fanbase to buy.
For as soon as the one set of kits is released, planning for the next jerseys is already under way with Morris, chief operating officer Chris Pearlman and senior marketing staff central to the process.
“We tend to start putting plans in place in July, the year before the kit in question is set to come out,” she says.
“We will be coming up with concepts, previous designs that have worked or not worked. We check to see if there are any anniversaries or past events we can nod to.
“The process is about giving Joma, with whom we have an excellent relationship, as much information and guidance as we can.
“Samples are sent back and fore, honing in on what we are looking for before we make the final call and then start the process of ordering for the launch often more than six months in advance of release date.
“For example, the kit for next season has been ordered in and is in the process of being delivered to us. The designs have been settled on and, as always, we hope Swansea City fans will like them.”
Morris has been with the Swans since 2006, when she joined as franchise manager for the store the club had in Debenhams in the Quadrant Shopping Centre.
She hails from Gorseinon and went to school in Ammanford, and she recalls with pride how her grandfather’s constant desire for self-improvement made an impression on her as a child and young adult.
“My grandfather went down the pit at the age of 13, he worked in the collieries at Blaenant and Betws,” said Morris.
“He worked at the collieries most of his life but he wanted to better himself and he decided that he was going to teach himself how to read and write, how to play classical music and he did it. There was never any doubt, he was going to do it. He was a brilliant man.
“From that he went on to be a councillor for most of his life, he was mayor of Lliw Valley and he was made an alderman.
“He always had the attitude that you could always get better and, if you wanted something, there was nothing to stop you getting to where you wanted to be.
“My father and uncle went to university coming from a council house background. It was just my grandfather’s philosophy. You can get to where you want to go.
“My grandfather was also a season ticket holder from the Vetch Field days and continued to be so in the early days at the Liberty Stadium. After his passing we transferred his seat into my son’s name, so now my father and son continue to support the Swans from the seats that my grandfather sat in.”
Morris’ first job was as a welfare assistant but, finding herself not enjoying the work she made what she thought would be a short-term switch into retail, but soon realised she had found a role that perfectly suited her.
“I completed my 'A' Levels and I wanted to work as a welfare assistant, but I did not really enjoy that,” she says.
“From there I went to work for a shipping company, specialising in antiques and second-hand furniture. I was only supposed to be there for six months but I actually worked there for 17 years.
“That was where I learn to buy and sell and that’s where I really fell into retail, it was just an opportunity that came up and I loved it.
“It just suited me completely.”
And then, opportunity knocked with Swansea City.
“The club were looking for a franchise manager as it was felt that there needed to be a presence in the city centre where fans could buy merchandise,” she adds.
“At the time I used to help kit out student accommodation for the university, and someone there had a connection with the football club and I went for an interview.
“That’s how I got started at the club, and I got thrown in at the deep end because it was just as the club were on their way to the play-off final against Barnsley and I had to deal with all the ordering and buy-in for what was such a busy period.
“From there I became commercial manager in the Championship, and then head of retail when we were promoted to the Premier League and this period in that role has been my favourite time at the club.”
Speaking to Morris her enthusiasm and genuine enjoyment of her work shines through, and she chuckles as she recalls some of those occasions where, despite the best laid plans, things have not always gone to script.
“We have had a few stories where we have been outside the stadium on a launch day waiting for a lorry to turn up, which can be quite stressful,” she smiles.
“We had another one where a ship carrying a container filled with our kit sank, and the kit was never recovered and that was the end of that!
"Another story that stands out for me came before our first game in the Europa League against Malmo where we had a bit of drama behind the scenes.
“To play in the competition the sponsor logo on the front of the shirt had to be a certain size.
“UEFA came with their rulers and measured our logo by hand and said they were too big. That was just a couple of hours before kick-off.
“So, we had to use a local business to do the transfer of the smaller logo onto the shirts.
“Myself and another member of staff were running across the car park to get the shirts to the players who were sat waiting for them in the dressing room to play the game.
“Hopefully there’ll be no instances like that this year!”